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Full text of "The strangers' wedding, or, The comedy of a romantic [microform]"

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^ /APPLIED IIVMGE Ir 

^K 1653 East Main Street 

S".^ Rochester. New York 14609 USA 

J^S ("6) ♦82 - 0300 - Phone 

^S ('16) 288- 5989 -Fax 



THE STRANGERS* 
WEDDING 



i 



I 



t 



THE STRANGERS* 

WEDDING or THE 

COMEDY of a ROMANTIC 



Sy W. L. GEORGE 



i 



, 



McClelland » stewart 

PUBLISHERS TORONTO 



PRIoOIB 
381 



{All rifkts rtservai) 



frmUd in Grmt Britam by 
WKWiy BKOTHBSS, LIMtTBD, TH* anSSHAX PRSK, WOKHfO AND UMSOR 



GRATEFULLY ACKNOWLEDGING THAT I OWE 
HIM THE ORIGINAL IDEA ON WHICH THIS 
NOVEL IS FOUNDED, AND HOPING THAT HE 
WILL OVERLOOK THE MANY PLACES WHERE MY 
WRITING HAS FALLEN SHORT OP HIS INTENTION, 
1 FEEL PLEASURE IN DEDICATING THIS BOOK TO 

A. W. ROGERS 



CONTENTS 



PART THE FIRST 
LEAVES OF OAK 

CHAPTBt 
1. "Otnr OF THE EVERYWHBRR" 

II. "... INTO HERE" 

III. THE PEACE OF ST. OLAVES 

IV. UTOPIA 

' • • 

V. WAVERING WINGS . 
VI. ANDROMEDA 



FAOB 

II 

as 
53 

82 
lOI 
127 



PART THE SECOND 

LEAVES OF YGGDRASIL 

I. THERESA 

II. THE DAY DREAM 
HI. THE DREAM IN THE NIGHT 

IV. THE WONDERPOOLS 

V. THE TWILIGHT OF ST. OLAVES . 

t 



iSi 
i68 
iSs 

197 
232 



8 CONTENTS 

PART THE THIRD 
cHAPTEn LEAVES OF WILLOW 

I, THE PYRENEES AND PEMBRORE SQUARE 

n. HESITATION 

• • • • 

II r. THE LAND OF DOUBT 

IV. SCENT OF DEAD JONQUILS 



PAOB 

263 

293 

359 



PART THE FOURTH 
LEAVES OF HOLLY 



T. RAMS0AT2 SANDS 
IT. REVERSION . 



385 
411 



PART THE FIRST 

LEAVES OF OAK 



A sore-hipped hippopotamus, greatly flustered. 
Was gnimbhng at his poulti..c made ol custard 
Can t you put upon niy hip 
Something better than this flip ? " 
So they put upon his hip a pot o' mustard. 



'^ mericks of the Edwardo-Georgian 
transition period. 



CHAPTER THE FIRST 

• OXJT OF THE EVERYWHERE . . ,* 
§1 

Through the railings of Green Park he could see far 
away in the South, the tower of Westminster Cathedral 
pointing as a gigantic finger towards Heaven. Or towards 
nothing, thought Huncote. Who could say? The bricken 
spear pleased him. its air of indication and. more ambitious 
Its Atlas boast of bearing upon a single pillar Paradise' 
while rooted m HeU. The day. indeed, was theological ' 
not one of those London days when the skies seem to pou^ 
mud and the fear of death transmutes itself into a fear 
that one may never die. nor yet one of those days when 
all men see, as Blake, a host of angels in a flaming skv 
It was a grey and undefined October day of doubt of 
trees stiU clad but shabbily, of soft air still warm 'vet 
hmtmg that its child might be cold. No blustering ifhxd 
but a world undefined, as if arrested, hesitatmg. upon the 
bnnk of an inevitable plunge into some other world 

For a Uttle whUe Huncote amused himself with a specula- 
tion that was a habit rather than an amusement He 
w^ not mterested in the hereafter ; at Oxford he had 
had his religious fit as other men have their drinking fit 
or womanise or row. He had been particular about 
vestments and their proper colours, then veered toward* 
Luther, and even frequented a chapel with a corrugated 
iron roof. He had read No. 90 of " Tracts for the Times " 
and Haeckel on the top. Out of chaos had come ni 



ca 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING. 



order, but rather a feeUng, half-optimistic, half-sceptical, 
that in the end heavenly mercy or revenge could take 
the hmdmost. He was a sort of insured agnostic. That 
morning he found it impossible even to admit anything 
immaterial, to reconcile with roaring Piccadilly behind 
him that giant finger pointing to the sky. And more 
proximate objects made him into a clearer materiaUst 
For It was not so cold yet that, upon the meadow along- 
side the Rita that is like a badly-laid green carpet the 
forgotten tramps of London could not lie. There they 
were, each apart from his feUow. maintaining the last 
dignity of the poor : keeping himself to himself. Things 
half-asleep upon the benches, with effaced arms and legs, 
heads sunken into chests as if the hats were too heavy for 
the tired necks ; and. scattered all about the meadow, as 
upon a battle-field the slain, others screwed up for warmth 
^d limbless, or fallen upon their backs with upward- 
pointing knees ; or on their sides with an outthrown arm 
and straggling fingers clutching at nothing. 

Huncote looked at them for a long time. « The pageant 
of the people." he told himself. " there's some of it." 

For a moment be hated them, was disgusted as he 
guessed those bodies, meagre, unfed, unwashed, evil- 
smelling, temples of beastly Uttle minds, merely lustful 
and mamly revengeful unless, which was still worse, 
those minds were just brought down to brute-level. But 
m a second the mood passed and, as Huncote gazed 
through the railings which he held with both hands, he 
was seized with pity and a sort of self-reproach. For 
what were they doing, these hands, in such a world? 
m the brand-new reindeer gloves which he had bought 
aaoss the road ? those long, slim fingers in the beautiful 
soft grey skin. . . . How ineffectual they looked ! He 
hated them m that moment because he knew that those 
•fingers shrank, as if by instinct, from the idea of touching 
that evihiess upon the grass which after all was still man. 
^And he knew that a time must come when he must touch 






I 



-OUT OF THE EVERYWHERE ...» 13 

it and not even with half-guinea gloves, but with bare 
shrmlang hajjds. " Only like that." he thought, "caT i 
justify myself: only by practising nobility <L I avoid 
Demg Ignoble in my own luxurious way " 

h.^\of^*^' ^*.^°^^ have been much nicer not to 
have had a conscience, or a sense of duty, or an impulse 
of pity. or rot of that sort, and just to have been a C 
or ^mething simple. Still. thU it was. Before^ 
could go any further into his meditation, a hand had 
smacked him upon the shoulder. 

"HaUo, Huncote! What are you staring at ? Isn't 
It a bit early to mark down Eve in the Gardenof Eden ?' 

stSng hiiT"" *' ^°°' ^* *'^ '^''^' °"^y ^' -d- 
;; Ifello. Piggy I » hesaid. « What are you domghere ? " 

-wWc^5n-t^ *° ^""t'" ^^ ^^' otherwise ^Gorsley. 
ih^l^T^^ "*. ^ ^"^^ ™°^* fi"'°? to the body thin 
J^ur^l; •'*''" ^*^ ^hich you are evidently satisfyi^ 

Huncote smiled. « D'you know. Kggy. that's not quite 
Jdb^otic. I suppose I was satisfying my soul in a sort of 

"And has it occurred to you." said Gorslev -tha* 
spiritual exaltation sometimes le;ds to ap;:^;'? tt 
Kf^ f«^ good trenchermen ? and that the highSt 
£?" ^ 'P'"' "? ""^*^^ ^y the weakness 0! Z^ 
- ?hnLK T ^°"1^ ^* ^ own incipient paunch. 
Though I may not look it. O Cardinal Quixote I too 
have been the home of Seven Devils. Td haV'l^n 
visited of all of them. The worst of them. I Infi 

nL Sn sh^r t'^ ""* p!^"^"^' ^ *^« demon of^: 
Sriii ♦ ' ^,^tmg valuable minutes which I 
mtended to pass at the club over the way. where I now 
crave your presence." ^ 

"Thanks awfully," said Huncote, "since vou have 
dragged me back to the world. You reaUy are a .wto? 
Piggy, you know." y «ire a swme. 



»4 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



"What else would you expect from a man with so 
elegant a nickname?" asked Gorsley, comfortably 
"Funny thing," he went on as they crossed the road, 
still talking busily as they dodged among the motor- 
buses, " I don't mind being called 'Piggy ' ; always was 
caUed something of the sort. I was 'Fatty' in the 
nursery and 'Tubby' at Marlborough, and at Gab's it 
was ' Piggy.' Can't get away from lard somehow. StiU 
I'm nearing the end, I think." 

" How's that ? " asked Huncote, as they took off their 
overcoats in the club lobby. 

" WeU," said Gorsley, " I should say that in a few years 
no more spermacetian suggestions will be made about me • 
the climate of India, vnth luck, will see to that. In five 
years, Huncote, you won't know me ; I shall be as thin 
as a lath, as they say in the halfpenny papers, and yeUow 
as a guinea, in the eloquent phrase of Thackeray, and 
long as a day without bread, to quote our gay neighbours 
across the Channel. I shall be a complete Indian civilian 
with one little body and one large liver. IfU be a change' 
anyhow." ^ ' 

The first part of lunch was entirely* occupied by 
Gorsley's anticipations and not very evident fears of the 
exammation for the Indian Civil he would have to stand 
in another fourteen months. He was a rather noisy 
bounding young man, extremely sure of himself and 
prepared to play footbaU with the globe ; at Oxford he 
had sat on most committees and had enlivened them 
with drifting eloquence. He was fond of beer and cham- 
pagne, of caviare, boiled mutton, pretty townees, and of 
the girls who came up to Oxford for Eights ; he could 
cu-culate the cups at tea-parties, and correctly address 
the daughter of a duke who had married a commoner 
later raised to the peerage and who ultimately ended as 
a dowager. Also, he was amazingly like a pig, with eyes 
that appeared orJy from time to time as the ray from a 
lighthouse ; his chubby mouth and his large nose suggested 



•OUT OF THE EVERYWHERE . . .- 15 
an amiable potato. Falstaff as cherub. One did not 
overlook Gorsley ; though he had just come down from 
Oxford, even the club waiters respected him 

J.^^^^^"^ ""{ l""'^ ^'^^"y* ^^° ^ f^ had ^th 
assumed modesty explamed why he had not the ghost of a 

chance of a really good job. suddenly swerved towards the 
anairs of his fnend. 

" What about you ? " he asked suddenly. « What have 

you got m your eye ? " Then, before Huncote could reply : 

Dyou know. I used to think ... you bei^^a 

bramysortolchapand all that . . . you might hfve 

a chance of a fellowship." 

-Not likely I floated frightfuUy in Schools. Besides. 
I don't want to be a don." 
^ Well! "said Gorsley, with large generosity. 
Yes, I know." said Huncote. "I have talked of be- 
coimng a don. every other freshman talks of that, but it 
isn t m my hne. Orford's too damp, for one thing ; the 
home of neuntis. How the dons manage to look so dry 
m an atmosphere hke that. I don't know." 

"Celibacy, my dear fellow." boomed Gorsley. "Cell- 
bacy whether married or not." And for a while he dilated 
a httle. to Huncote's discomfort, upon the temperature of 
the passions of various feUows of Gabriel. But he was 
mquisitive ; he had been to so many tea-^oarties. made so 
rnany inqmnes. known the outside of so many people and 
the mside of so few. cared so little about what thev felt 
and wanted so much to know what they did. that Huncote 
stmiulated him to inquiry. Gorsley had often wondered 
about Huncote. as did a good many other people at Oxford. 
He had always thought that this long, lanky person, with 
the straight brows and the close-set. deep-greV eye^ was 
bound to do something queer. But what? "I don't 
say you were bom to be a don," he replied in injured tones • 
there are loads of other things. I say, let's have coffee 
in the smoking-room. 
The passage into the smoking-room did not deflect 



x6 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



As soon as they sat down he 
he asked. " Thought 



Gorsley from his quest, 
began again : 

" But what are you going to do ? 
of anything ? " 

" I s'pose I have," said Huncote, guardedly. He threw 
at the amiable Piggy a look almost hostile. It was char* 
acteristic of him that he disliked people laying rough hands 
upon his life. He was aloof ; like men whose interior life 
is vivid, he tended to int>tect himself from the outside. 
He had done all the usual things at Oxford^ but almost 
as if they were part of the curriculum. He was rather an 
old young man, though but twenty-three. He hated being 
hustled like this. But Gorsley did not notice, and bliss- 
fully continued to roll over Huncote's protesting little 
phrases. 

" One's got to settle what one's going to do, you know. 
It doesn't do to stroll about London as if it was the High. 
One's got to do something. Didn't realise it myself a 
year o. two ago," he added, charitably. 

• Oh, yes, you did," said Huncote, rather vidous. 

■ Only in a sort of way. Of course, I knew I had to mal:e 
a living and all that . . . but that's not the question ; 
even a nan who hasn't got to make a living . . . well, 
hang it all, it's pretty dull if you don't do anything. I 
thought you were going to be a parson one time ? " 

" I did think about it," said Huncote, " but it didn't 
last long. It isn't comfortable in the Church when you 
don't believe in anything." 

" It can be done," said Gorsley. " Why, think of all the 
... of all those French ecclesiastics in the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries ; they didn't swallow it, did 
they?" 

" No," said Huncote, " I suppose they didn't. But then, 
in the seventeenth century it was not exactly religion, 
was it ? It was politics, rather." 

" Politics," said Gorsley. His eyes were more visible this 
time than they had been the last hour. "What about 



\ 



OUT OF THE EVERYWHERE 



17 



Ever thought of standing for Parlia- 



Parliament ? 
ment?" 

" Yes," said Huncote, reluctantly, " I do think of it now 
and then." 

" TeU you what," said Gorsley, " if you're reaUy thinking 
of It, you go in with the Tories. The Liberals have got 
all the young men, and you know the Tory push at the 
Union. . . . V/ell, talk of purulent toads I They are 
It. A brainy man like you'll win hands down. Chancellor 
of the E..chequer at forty-five . . . it's a sure thing " 
Huncote began to laugh. " Piggy," he said, " I'd tell 
you again you're a swine, only you don't mind. Don't 
you know I'm a Liberal ? " 

" Oh that's all right," said Gorsley. « Politic? opinions 
are fluid, and some of us don't attach much importance to 
them ; we officials, for instance." he added, with a wink 

Huncote laughed again. It was no use; one could not 
be angry with Piggy even if he was a nuisance, always 
djggmg at you to know what you were doing, and looking 
at the photographs of your female friends in your rooms 
and reading the cards stuck in your mirror. Oh at it 
again : ' 

' A man who can wait." he said, " can still make a career 
at the Bar. He can mix it in with politics, and that's 
qmte a pie " His tone grew pitying : " You might try 
the Home Civil. Though it'd have been better to start 
from Cambridge. Only one can't go to Cambridge." He 
laughed. "You know: Loving the Earth. God made 
Heaven; generous, he made Oxford; resentful, he made 
■Well ; then he made Cambridge." 

Huncote did not laugh, and Gorsley for a moment gazed 
at him reflectively, felt rather sorry for him. He was the 
sort of young man who, because he was always doine 
something himself, thought that everybody else ought 
always to be doing something ; in the course of an exceUent 
education he had had to dabble with philosophy, and he 
would have understood what you meant if you told him 



i ! 



i ! 

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l8 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

that nothing was something, only he could not apply that 
to We Gorsley's mind was fuU of words beginning with 
capitals: Work. Career. Success; and there were two 
words which his mind printed in capitals drawn from the 
larg^t fo^t : GETTING ON. He was very irritated 
by Roger Huncote. who seemed so obstinately set on not 
domg this undefined but essential something, who was 
just religious enough to be annoying, though not reUgious 
enough to run for bishop ; he " didn't mind " the Bar and 
at the same time had political opinions rigid enough to 
mifit hrni for politics. Also he suspected that Roger 
Huncote was not impressed by the Indian Civil. For a 
moment he grew acid. 
"Lord! I don't know what's going to become of you 

• : • }}. ^^"'t for nothing they called you ' Cardinai 
Quixote. " ^ « 

„ 1} ^?"'* ^°w why they called me that." said Huncote. 

Iheres something mystic and militant and romantic 
about It. and when I reflect that I'm an amiable agnostic 
whose mihtancy consists in lying in bed. and whose impulse 
towards romance has not manifested itself even at Buol's 
I can't u; ierstand it. Give me up. Kggy ; it's no good! 
you 11 never make a man of me." 

Gorsley flung him a rather disconsolate glance. 

" 1 don't know, Huncote ; you're a queer fish 1 " 

§2 
It was not the first time in his life that Roger Huncote 
had been caUed a queer fish. There was a queer-fishiness 
about hun m the nursery, where he developed so early 
a taste for knocking out melodies on a tumbler that 
Mrs. Huncote specially looked up the early lives of great 
musicians, and related her son with Mozart. Ahladv 
then she reflected that he was not the ordinary kind of 

boy Yet he seemed to grow up very much the ordinary 
kmd of boy He did aU the things that ordinary boj^ 
do, from hating nee pudding to breaking windows • but 



i 



-OUT OF THE EVERYWHERE ..." rg 

there always seemed to lurk at the back of these purely 
human impulses a detachment, as if he were thinldns of 
something else. At Winchester he played cricket, looldng 
while he fielded as if he were Composing ai dS^'- 
yet when he had to try his hand at Greek hexam^' 
Roger Huncote treated the exercise as if with every line 
the longing grew m him to return to a weU-beloved riovel- 
mlrl ^a^S" *^^ Sanguinary." which, with various 
more respectable works of Marryat. he kept in his desk 
He had a qx^ty of independence less in the things he 

things he did not ; he was not a boy to be swayed by 
fashions. While even rigid Elspeth. Ws elder sisteVhad 
to wear smaUish hats when hat- were small. Hukcote 
wore brown boots to the shade of which his form objT^d : 
almost a vocation for Christian martyrdom. It was 
Himcote who. in his first term, found out that none but 
freshers gave cabmen two shUlings for the drive from the 

vTl?{ .V^ 1^'"^'^ *" ""^'^ *^^"^ one-and-six. Ad 
3^t^aU this did not resolve itself in a distinct person- 

"Funny Mow. this Huncote." said the Bursar to the 
Ltean I reaUy must show you that essay of his on the 
putative charter of Father Ambrosius. It's the oddest-! 
ILm 3 S!- ^^^^t-tWng I've ever seen. Most of 

IJ!^ i^^[" '" '*• ^"* Huncote's related him to 
the Fourth Party! Most remarkable." 
JRie DeM laughed with every fat wrinkle: "Another 
candidate for the CoUege of Heralds ! " He winked wiS 

^d "SLl'^'"?' '°^ *^^ ^--'^ ^°- ofZck-letter 
Shri.Ti!!''*^ '1"*'^ manuscripts, that everybody at 

-Hum,- said the Bmsar." I don't know. ... You 
s^^^this chap Huncote . he has ideas of his o^! 

S^«;^' ;A' ^ *®^* **> ^^ o«t what they are 
He seems to-to grow. and. of course. I know l 



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20 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



i 



oughtn't to try, but I always feel he's not growing in the 
way he ought ; he's growing in the way he wants." 

The Dean smiled. "Queer fish! I must ask him to 
dinner again. I'll leave him in your hands for you to 
make him grow as he should." 

" I wonder how ? " mused the Bursar. " How he could 
be made more normal, I mean. He doesn't mix enough 
with the other men ; it seems to me he wants to be vac- 
cinated — let us say with commonplacine." 

The Dean shook his head. " Dauigerous busincis, making 
a young man normal. But why hurry ? Aren't they all 
normal enough by the time they're thirty-five ? Remember 
* Graviora quadam sunt remedia perictdis.' " 

Despite the kindly intentions of the Bursar, which 
should have honoured him, and would not have been 
accorded him if his own tutor had not, like his senior, been 
afiSicted with medixval ciuriosities. Hvmcote did not grow 
up normal. To begin with, he had come to Gabriel with 
the intention of taking a double first, together with the 
Ireland and a few more trophies. That alone was unusual. 
Himcote had not escaped from Winchester into Oxford ; 
rather he had passed from a seminary into a monastery. 
And as a freshman he looked rather awed at the dons, 
and thought it would be good to end as they, for he loved 
Oxford, everything that it was and everything that it is, 
which is perhaps the same thing; he loved it as the 
home of lost causes and the home of young hopes, the 
stricken field where sprang up new crops. For him in 
those days there could be in Oxford no anachronisms, not 
even when they took the shape of trams and marmalade. 
He did not see the town, as too readily does the more 
spiritual kind of youth, as a romantic edition of long-dead 
times, when scholars disputed all together in large halls, 
slept on straw, and lived convulsive lives of lewdness 
and prayer. For him Oxford was too living to be the 
past, too remote to be the present ; it was always the 
•hadowy future, like the warmth in the neighbourhood of 



"OUT OF THE EVERYWHERE . . " ai 

a torch. He was not spiritual, that is, detached from 
life; he was romantic: life was to him, like men and 
places, a sort of raw material out of which to weave 
aspirations, on which to base quests. Life meant for him 
stimulus to living. Oxford, therefore, twining Isis and 
aloof Magdalen, Tom Quad, like a wedding-cake, and 
sombre Queen's, all of it, even intimate Gabriel, with its 
hundred little peepholes out of the cells over the cloister 
and the quad, mingled < Jte naturally with the Com. 
its tea-shops and waitresses, with the rumbling old "bus 
that reluctantly creeps out of Oxford down the High, 
from whose roof in the afternoon one may actually look 
into the digs and see green vases filled with lilies. At 
least in Huncote's day, when nearly all the lilies lay in the 
graves where they were buried in the 'nineties, one could 
still see a few in tall green aesthetic vases, next to the 
" YeUow Book " and the wicked poems of Mr. Swinburne. 
Yes, thought Huncote m those days, it would be good to 
be a don. And he saw himself in a really nice house, not 
Queen Anne, for they were so draughty and had no bath- 
rooms, but in one of those fine houses in St. Giles's, with a 
flat face of red brick and taU white-framed windows. 
And a big, cheerful, solenm study, with books on every 
waU. A cat and a pipe, a grey Persian cat, of course. 
And a severe manservant, grey-haired (like the cat), who 
would be very familiar and domineering with him, having 
served at endless high tables through endless terms. He 
dallied with the idea of a young, pink wife who would 
be kittenish (also like the cat), and drop hairpins and leave 
her gloves about, be untidy and deUghtfuL But he only 
trifled with the idea, for Huncote was a very old young 
man, so old that he seldom brooded over the idea of love. 
And so somehow he did all the usual things : he joined 
the Union and got on to the RusseU ; he adopted Liberal 
politics, rather academic, and was a Whig fifty years late 
m a style which would have delighted Lord Melbourne.' 
but made Bri^t wonder whether Huncote had a soul to 



22 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



save. He leamt " Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform ' by 
heart. Once, at the O.U.D.S., he covered himself with 
confusion by attempting the Apothecary when he ought to 
have been cast for Romeo. For if one thing was certain 
among aU this uncertainty, this youthfuhiess, the direction 
of which was as that of a puppy playing on the grass, 
it was that Huncote was a romantic. It was the romance 
in him made him see as romantic that part of Oxford 
which is only a home for lost dons ; that part again which 
clad him in ecclesiastical regalia. It was not for nothing 
that somebody called him " Cardinal Quixote." 

And yet " Cardinal Quixote " grew up more or less as 
they wanted him to, which was exactly what he ought not 
to have done, because not to grow up different when one 
is different is to misgrow. He went to the French Club 
and learnt that Verlaine was a great poet. In due course 
he had the Pater fit, the Oscar WUde fit, and the Meredith 
fit : the Oxford versions of teething, measles, and chicken- 
pox. That was his best period because his most untruthful 
when ahnost every day at some time he was to be 
found in Stanpit's shop, near the King's Arms, looking 
over first editions of "Dorian Gray" or "The Egoist," 
and discovering that Aubrey Beardsley was the prince 
of draughtsmen. He leamt scraps of Pater by heart, 
began even to copy Marius in his essays, much to the 
horror of the tutor of the moment, who had been educated 
in the school of Trollope, 

In his third year only, when all of a sudden he discovered 
Swinburne, did Huncote make a leap. From that day he 
seemed to come into the kingdom of his own soul, for 
temperaments do not in man develop bvmoniously as 
does fruit from a bud ; in Huncote, as in most men, the 
truth of him, such as it was, came up rather as a mushroom 
in the night.' It had all happened after a binge at the 
House. Huncote did not the next day lemember who 
had been there, for he had certainly been drunk, though 
much less than most of the others ; Gor&ley had been there, 



! i 



"OUT OF THE EVERYWHERE ..." 23 

and Rufford too, and there had been somebody else too, 
a man caUed Tarbet, he thought, with a voice like the 
bull of Bashan. Or the voice may have belonged to one 
of the other nameless faces which had sat on smoke and 
emptied many glasses into invisible bodies. It had 
certainly been a great voice, whether Tarbet's or anybody 
else's, that had shouted those lines the rhythm of which 
for many days haunted Huncote : 

The ivy falls with the Bacchanal's hair 

Over her eyebrows hiding her ejres ; 
The wild vine slipping down leaves ban 

r bnght breast shortening into sighs : 
The wiJd vine sUps with the weight of its leaves. 
But tliQ bemed ivy catches and cleaves 
To the Umbs that gUtter, the feet that scan 

The wolf that follows, the fawn that fl'es. 

And there had been other Unes, too^just scraps : 
. . . Where the sea sobs round Lesbian promontories . 
that clung to him, wrapt him, as drugged wine, wine 
lovmgly poisoned with rose leaves, like the soft, sweet 
smeU that clings about golden tendrils of hah-, swooning 
eyes glimpsed through haif-^Josed lashes. ... 

But he was shy. So it had all resolved itself into that 
peculiar harsh chastity which is so much Oxford when 
Oxford is not drunk or womanising. Swinburne, fasten- 
ing upon this boy as a taloned hawk upon a lamb, 
m.--' ^im and spofled him. This hour of awaking life' 
ofcw.ivjd to Huncote too intolerably beautiful to be true 
But this was the third year, and a door had been opened • 
looking through the chink, Huncote could see companions 
who had boldly passed beyond, doing guilty, deBcious things 
in a phantom London where was vice or glory, where 
ideas rose up like arabesques upon a screen : the great 
world seen through a pin-hole. And they seemed so casual, 
all of them, except those that seemed pressing that 
answered with a sidelong glance the more sidelong glance 
of some pretty townee in sleepy HolywelL He was not 



H THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

articulate enough to vow that he at kast would not be 
Msual with these things, but already he began to know 
that he must know . . . and the house in St. Giles's, 
the severe manservant, the Pfersian cat, and even the 
rosy tottenish wife, began to lade like shadows blotted 
out by a greater shadow. He was ceasing to think 
thoughts ; he was beginning to think of deeds and to 
bury temptmg contemplation in its restful medi«val grave 
The time had not yet come when he should cause thingi 
to happen, but very soon he was to stagger while things 
happened to him. He was to be caught up and tossed 
mto the arms of woman, to know them at their least seduc 
tive. at their most horrible, as if Oxford had plotted to 
make one last effort to sicken him of all lusts so that she 
alone might gratify on his being her drear desire. 



CHAPTER THE SECOND 



• . . INTO HERE 



Sr 

HUNCOTE paused for a moment just outside Paddinrton 
Stataon. In that minute the station and Praed Sta^t 
d^dnotseemugtytohmi. Indeed, it is a question whether 
toany man who has hved in Oxford. Paddington and 

Sri if^L?" ^""V"^ ^ ^' «»™^<=«. for they an 
the hyphen between the contemplative Ufe and the active • 
they are the places where are breathed sighs of relief 

V^tf..^?' ^^y are as the bed in Richepin's po^ 
where aUthm^ begin, where an things end. ThatmoS 
^I^^ f ^^ ''^ ^^ begimiing; he had alm^ 
r^nW °'t ^^|".*r° ^^^' ^ « the aftennath of that 
ttf 3 "I^ Swinburne's verse flowed like honey through 
the buU of Bashan's brazen trump, had left in hi^ a sw^ 

^t^ u "'u™"'?- 7^''''^^ ^*«^ *^ O^ord had 
'T^c?«f,^?'H^L/"*°^''^^^'' ^ * «>rt of Ninon de 
.Enclossfill desirable at eighty . . . buteightyl TTiose 
sleepy waters and gardens were growing not orchids TS 
Shai^peare flowm. Mustiness mixed with rowdiness; 
It had all felt either too mellow or too crude. Hehad 
growmg pans, and the most horrible kind of »owine 
pams. for here he was aflBicted with them inside Si iron 
cage. ""*• 

And so he had not, as he vaguely felt he ought, loaded 

Bis lug^e upon a taxi and driven across to E^toi ^ 
he would dutiftJly take the train for St Qla^ to sS 
•t his mother's house. As he stood, blinldng ^^ 



fl6 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



spun-gold Ught of the London sun, observing as old friends 
a tobacconist's opposite who, he remembered, always 
hung his shop with dark blue on boat race day, and a 
flower shop, next to Praed Street Station, where a girl 
was rather pretty, he was conscious of unrest ; for Huncote 
owned a conscience, and the world had not yet trained 
It into dodUty. But his mother and Flora had come up 
for Eights, and he had grown so appallingly tired of the 
faded prettiness of the one and the over-bright prettiness 
of the other, so tired of Mrs. Huncote and of her offensive 
remarfa about boys. It made him shrink when she said 
boys," because the freshmen might hear her. And so 
tired of explaining that a dean was not necessarily an 
ecclesiastic, of meeting Flora's curiosities as to what a 
bl<X)d or a binge was. Flora had flirted, and her mother 
had worn a nice smile from the beginning to the end. 
They were charming in their way, only they were not 
passionate monks, and Oxford had no use for them • 
Huncote was not sure that the presence of any woman in 
Oxford was not sacrilegious. So he drew back from the 
Idea of vacuous days up there; even the tonic of his 
elder sister Elspeth's hardness would not make the thing 
tolerable just then. Later on, in August, it would be 
aU nght, when the Oxford paint, so fresh on hun now. 
had dried a little. 
" No," he thought, aloud, " TU stay." 
And as he thought, having conceded so much to 
Dionysus, he felt reUeved, like a murderer who looks 
upon his victim on the ground and thinks, with a sieh 
of relief : " WeU, anyhow that's over." 

It had been a short struggle, for, indeed, as he quickly 
stepped through Spring Street the day was Dionysian. 
There was languor and exuberance in the streets, already 
warm with early sun. London was like a very young 
courtesan who stiU enjoys her trade, with tree jeweUery 
still fresh and roses but in bud. From the pavement 
rose dust that the lazy warm breeze carried a very little 



INTO HERE 



27 



rLSc^T"!"^ "^^^ ^"^ ^"^"^^ I^ndon smells 
of horses, petrol tanyard, and brewery, beautiful workine 
smells, smells of art. not obvious smells of nature. As 
he drew nearer to the Park, the motorcars that passed 
him. perhaps because the air was light, seemed fasS^ 
more whizang than usual, their highly-polished fitting^ 

trn^L .k'.^^^*"'"^- ^'*' ^*^8ely enVugh. as if S 
thm^ that day were exaggerated, just as the motor-cars 

Flemish horses still begauded with the rosettes they had 
just earned at Carthorse Parade, seemed slower. The 
dnver upon his high seat sat back, the reins lay in his 
kngmd large hands. And it passed with an Echoing 
crooning rumble. As he went. Huncote was violently 
consaous of strain and slackness in the early London 
I'^T ^^° r""^" <^« to^ds him. women in 
i^i^ hnT^ them summed-up in a pince-neas; women 
vnth bnck-red in their cheeks and sand in their hair, 
and m their lU-gloved hands and clumsy feet the dis^ 
race of womanhood. As he passed them he thrilled 
wth hatred, as if he could not bear that anything should 
be ugly m the midst of pageantry. He M^s^ung, he 

11 TT' '°' ^l ^^ "°* '^^^ ^ ^g«r with that 
second of ,oy as he passed a girl who went with quick 
steps about her business, upon whose red hair. high-Sled 
the sun laid a sheen that made of it a copper hetoet! 
As he passed he flung her a sidelong look" ^d never 

r n ^f .^^ ^" ^"''^ ^"^^ l>l"e eyes, and lips red 
and rolled back. Her beauty hurt him^ls the S^inS 
had hurt him He was so young as to be happy in 
Ignorance, c id not to understand just then that both 
were signs of London's fever which would dwindle and 
then faU as the golden days turned into grey, then rise 
again when from the grey came gold, as iit^;^^ ^ 
beginnmg and would ever be. 

As he went into Kensington Gardens, he could not be 
phUosophic; he could only feel No past and no future 



I 






28 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



here, but a present almost intolerable, because too enfold- 
ing. London in its sober, secret riot. It seemed a very 
long walk across the Gardens to Knightsbridge. where 
are red sentries, and through the prance of Piccadilly 
to the restaurant where he had a man to meet. He 
swore at himself because he had a man to meet, and for 
a moment saw Oxford as it was because he. like other 
undergraduates, always had a man to meet (and seldom 
a woman), a tea-party to go to. a music-haU to visit, and 
so on : Oxford on the loose, or rather Oxford on the lead. 
It was hateful, because his eyes were still filled with the 
memory of the amber and golden beads of the calceolaria. 
Mid the spears of the snapdragon laden with garnet bells. 
He would have liked not to roll in the spangled meadows, 
but rather to hang for a very long time over the parapet 
of the Serpentine bridge, and to look at the cunning 
woods that are like a Hampshire hanger towards the pale 
blue East that smiles and broods above Park Lane. But 
he had a conscience, and. though it had not been so 
difficult to break with an obligation, a visit to St. Olaves, 
It was impossible to break with a promise ; he had to 
meet Ditton at lunch. 

Ditton, too, had that morning felt the influence of 
Dionysus, but the god had not made him dreamy. 
Rather had he poured into his veins an uigency to do 
something, anything, a mere restlessness ; but stiU it was 
an energy and much greater than Huncote's intoxicated 
languor, an energy which enabled him to force out of his 
fnend another promise: that he would dine with him 
that mght and go to a music-haU. Huncote promised 
because he could think of no way of escape. He made 
a mental reservation, toW himself that he would not go. 
but would send a telegram at the last minute. Yet at 
the same time he knew that he would go, because, even if 
Ditton (Ed talk of Gab's, stiU here they were, and it was 
J^ndon, and soon it wouW be night. At what altar 
better sacrifice than at that of the European promenade ? 



INTO HERE' 



29 



Huncote knew, without having phrased it, that Ditton 
came to town to paint it red, as Ditton put it. H*j had 
hked the feUow ever since he had carefuUy made himseU 
up to look like the warden of St. Saviour's, whom he 
closely resembled, and boldly gone into the big draper's 
in the Com and ordered a lady's chemise, together with 
corlmg pms and other accessories to be sent to his rooms 
before 7 rfdock. There was not an undergraduate who 
did not know the story, but a coalition of all the 
authorities in Oxford faUed to discover the culprit 
Ditton said he did not believe the authorities had tried 
very hard, for he suspected that after a moment of 
annoyance the warden began to enjoy the vague reputa- 
tion of dreadful doggishness which he acquired in the 
whole town. There was in Ditton's eye a sort of per- 
manent wink, and so. wWle he waited in the lobby of the 
Trocadero. Huncote felt that he might dispel Ustlessness 
But, as ahnost at once the swing-doors opened, he drew 
back and became a little stiff. Ditton had not played 
fair with him. ReaUy he should not have done it without 
asking hun. for here he was with Moss and Wray, two 
of the worst, two of the very worst, who belonged to a set 
at Gab's that he never had anything to do with. Huncote 
came forward and shook hands rather coldly. But it 
was no use being cold ; evidently Wray and Moss, who 
thought him intolerably superior, were willing to make 
^lowances for him. Also, as they went down the stairs 
I Huncote watched the movement of Wray's blazing red 
head, and decided that he was already drunk. 

He was annoyed. It was aU very well Ditton making 

up a party, but everybody knew that Wray was always 

I a bit drunk. As they shed their coats, he watched 

[angrily the behaviour of the man who was bound to 

disgrace them in the course of the evening. The object 

I of his anger smiled at him with perfect satisfaction, for 



30 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



I 



Lord Alastair Fitanaurice Wray was seldom in the mood 
to dislike anybody much; in his present condition he 
was beyond aU hatreds. And it was hard to dislike him. 
for he was extraordinarily handsome, an inch or so over 
SIX feet in height, and one could not quarrel with the 
beaming stupidity which radiated from his innocent blue 
eyes, from the mouth which had at the age of four 
caused him to be painted as a cupid. 

" Glad to see you," he remarked vaguely to Huncote. 
Then, as they passed in : " FeUer Uke you gives tone to a 
party, that's what I say." He grew more intent : " What 
I say is. a feller like you gives tone to a party ; see what 
1 mean ? " 

"Oh. yes. I see what you mean," said Huncote, uneasily, 
trying to humour him. 

Ditton was ordering the dinner m coUaboration with 
Moss, who was a judge of wines, so Lord Alastair per- 
sisted : "^ 

" What you want in a party is tone." he said. " l-l-litery 
tone. A man like you gives tone to a party ; see what 
I mean ? " 

" Yes. I see what you mean," said Huncote, rather frigid 
Awfully clever of you," remarked Lord Alastair. " Lots 
of people don't know what I mean when I'm blind At 
least, I'm not blind ; quite aU right, ain^t I, Mossy ? " 

The little dark Jew flung him a humorous glance of 
contempt. 

XT " IS'*'" *^^ ^ * ^®^^'" ^« ^^' " ^^ roost suitable. 
No, Ditton, don't have Rudesheimer to start on. Let me 
look at the list. Soda water for Alastair and nothing else " 
The young man had not heard his sentence to sobriety 
for he was convulsed with merriment over Moss's joke. 

"Drunk as a lord I Ever heard anything so funny ? " 
He violently smacked Huncote's thigh: "Ever heard 
anything so funny?" Then, with sudden seriousness 
teaiung over and seizing Moss by the sleeve, he remarked : 
Mossy, you're dam clever 1 " 



INTO HERE 



3X 



Mom looked at him with that affectionate half-con- 
temptuous air This big handsome fool of an EnSw, 
T^^ '^ only cieatun, that Moss had ever K 
im Jr^nY^ T- ^^ * "^ ^f^ P"PPy ^ho could 
^^t * T**" *™°""' ^ ^^' oS^^meant. who 
lyed fine, rough games with one, like tuggine at a niece 

Hairs:: ^^^^^^ to his strength ^ intemgS^^ 
u^i w Tiy^"" ^''^ ^°» *"™»«d him up as a dirty 

Oxford, he was generaUy on the make, and opened a 
backing account when at school; they respect^ Wm 
because of his knowledge of the world-that is to L S 
^rotten end of it-but they hated him fir the ^e 
reason. And they made no allowances for that side of iS^ 

.^fi«^- ^T.^^y ^^"^ *^^* ^n h« rooms was a lar«j 
collection of Benvenuto CelUni goldwork and of RenT 
sance enamels. Some of the men who happened tol^ 
^.Msical fnrpve him a good deal because now Ind th«^ 
taey slunk mto his rooms in the evening, where he took nS 
notice of them and played Bach fugues^n the pfan^wi A 
amaang dexterity. Nobody understood tJT^ 
Wray s beauty, his immense, fine-moulded limbs and th^ 
shanvanged thick crop of red hair that fillS^Si «thetic 
Jew s soul with endl^ deUghts. osmetic 

The dinner had progressed beyond the soup before the 
conve^ation b«:ame at aU active, for they l^Z^ 

In h 'Sr^-*^'^'t? ^'"^ ^* ^^ P^* seven"^^ Bui 
When It began, mevitably enough it was of Oxford as if 

twtrtt'"*" ^^' *"^y ^*^ themT^^W 
|ment^which they must get rid of before they plunged into 

iTh^rA lu'^^!^ ^y * ^°** ^'»o came from a class 
pe mstmcts of wme-merchants. « And you'd never believi 



32 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

it," he added, looking about him for sympathy, " they had 
roast fowl ... actually roast fowl!" He giggled: 
"I thought that sort of people worshipped saddle of 

mutton." 

Huncote and Ditton laughed, feeling it their duty, for 
they were not quite sure that there was anything wrong 
with saddle of mutton, so usual in their own homes. 
Moss's eyes twinkled; he was clever enough to know 
the cause of their forced laughter, and he had a keen ironic 
pleasure in feeling superior to the people who lived beyond 
that invisible pale where his own folk were prisoned. And 
so there was a little cleavage of silence until Ditton began 
to tell them the story of the latest rag. As usual Areley 
had been the victim. 

" That chap, Areley," said Ditton, " he's asking for it. 
What the freshers will do without him when he goes down. 
Lord only knows." 

" Who's Areley ? " asked Huncote. 

"Oh," said Ditton, "he's the . . . he digs in St. 
Old's ; of course, you might know him, but, being at the 
House, a man gets lost in that great bam of a place. 
Don't you remember ? He's the man we put the placard 

on." 

A splutter of merriment went up from the other two, and 
suddenly Huncote laughed too as he remembered Areley, 
the tall, absent-minded, goggle-eyed person who had gone 
the whole length of the High with a large placard, pinned 
on his gown, marked : " Strike but hear ! " 

" I think it's rather a shame," said Himcote at last. 

" Not a bit of it," said Moss, " we've all got our function in 
the world; Areley's the comic relief. Isn't that true, 
Ditton ? • 

"Rather." 

" But I haven't told you what we did to him the other 
day. He was having one of his highly superior little 
parties, just a select few, you know, the best people . . . 
aU that ; third year men only. They had met together 



INTO HERE" 



33 



for a qtiiet dinner in a private room at the ' ?^; trc. (korsian 
silver, caviare ; lemonade or champagm to suit one' ; 
principles. The whole thing to be follow vd by a rea 'y 
high-toned debate on 'The Yoimg Novelit;t5 ->i Knglaxid, 
and What They will do for our Country.' " 
" Well, what's the rag ? " asked Huncote. 
"This chap, Areley," Ditton explained, "he does the 
thing properly, you know. Somebody foimd out through 
his landlady's daughter where he kept his invitation cards. 
You mayn't believe it, but he's got engraved cards 
which he sends out for his extra specials : ' Mr. Cuthbert 
St. John Areley requests the pleasure of Mr. Blank's com- 
pany at Dinner on the . . .* All that sort of thing. 
Well, whether the girl was bribed or whether he left the 
locker open, I can't tell you, but when Areley turned up 
at the ' Mitre ' at ten to seven to see that everything was 
all right, the waiter said to him : ' Six gentlemen have 
arrived, sir.' " 
Moss threw himself back and gui^led delightedly. 
"Oh, I see," he cried, rather tactlessly, anticipating 
Ditton's point. 

Wray flung him a look of admiration ; never had he 
met anything so fly as Moss. 

" So," Ditton pursued, " dear old Areley went up, feeling 
very flustered and all that because he had not been there to 
receive his guests, and wwidered whether his watch was 
slow. But when he got in . . ." (Ditton paused impres- 
sively) " he found Melton in his flannels, and Cotton, the 
Labour man. with a deerstalker on his head and a bull- 
dog pipe in his mouth. And there was Rayne, who's on 
the edge of the Church ; he was looking at Cottoo, who's 
an atheist, as if he were a centipede." 

" Anybody else ? " asked Huncote, " though that sounds 
promising." 

"There were three more," said Ditton, with immense 
sei' asness. "There was Tid, who'd been— well, let us 
say— got ready by a few of us, for he was so blind that he'd 



34 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



slipped off his chair and was holding it affectionately by 
the leg, while Warcop — ^the chap who came up from the 
Polytechnic, but happened to have lived mostly in India — 
was trying his best not to be sick as he looked at Rajah 
Abdur Singh, who that night wore all, all, all his jewellery." 

There was a roar of laughter. 

" And what did poor old Areley do ? " asked Huncote. 

" WeU, what could he do ? " said Ditton. " Those six 
had had invitation cards saying it was quite informal, 
and no answer was expected. And they'd only had them 
two hours before the affair, so that they couldn't let on, 
and they'd been told to come at a quarter to seven, and 
there was poor old Areley, dancing round like a dog who's 
drunk ripolin in the scullery thinking it was milk, won- 
dering what to do with the high-toned push coming on in 
another five minutes ! I don't know how he shot *em out, 
but he did. Said something about the dinner being off 
and bolted down the stairs, told the waiter to put back the 
dinner and show the real lot into another room." 

" And did that settle it ? " asked Moss. " Doubtful, if 
I know some of the men you mentioned." 

" It didn't quite," replied Ditton. " Five of them went 
within half an hour or so, and the damage wasn't so serious 
except that something got bvmit. But there wasn't 
another room, and they couldn't move Tid; he was so 
blind that not even the waiters could move him because 
he hung on to that chair, murmuring something about 
drowning and that nobody should take his lifebelt. So 
they had to put him away imder the sofa, where, I'm 
told, the noises he made in the course of the evening 
seriously interfered with the debate as to whether Gals- 
worthy and Bennett were written out." 

Perhaps it was the ability with which Moss had selected 
the wines, but as the dinner went on Huncote found him- 
self less awkward. He was talking more easily now to 
everybody in general rather than to his neighbour, and 
he began to rejoice in Wray's behaviour, who, eluding the 



INTO HERE" 



35 



vigilance oi Moss, poured out over half a tumbler of sherry 
which he drank neat, remarking to Ditton that this was 
jolly good old Madeira. But a Uttle later Wray grew a 
little difficult to manage, for he began a long anecdote 
about a very fat recruit whom his father had had in his 
regiment. The story was rather vague, but, apparently, 
the recruit's trousers had not been properly fitted, with the 
result that in his excitement he simultaneously burst every 
button on Southampton wharf. 

" Shut up 1 Alastair," said Moss, as he turned to Ditton 
and asked him whether he had taken his tip to back 
Mangold Pheasant for the City and Suburban. 

And Huncote tried to help by asking Wray the same 
question. But the young man had reached the dogged 
stage of drink, and from time to time burst out with his 
story. 

" I shouldn't hedge if I were you," said Moss. " Either 
Carlsbad wins or it's anybody's race. You might as well 
back the field for all you know about anything else's form." 

" And so they locked him up in the waiting-room while 
they sent up to the dep6t for another pair, and when they 
came back with one the ship had sailed. . . ." 

" I got the tip from Lulu Malavine," said Moss. " and she 
got it straight from Lane, the trainer, himself." He 
smggered. " You bet Lane told he^ the truth. There are 
hours and there are moments when Lulu will make him 
tell her an3?thing." 

" And on board it was the same thing ; the new pair 
was the same size, you see. .uid they didn't happen to carry 
a tailor. So the goveruo. says they put him in a kilt 
and he hadn't been hall an hour in Cape Town before he 
got arrested for bringing the Queen's imiform into . . ," 

Wray had now fastened upon Ditton in particular ; so 
Moss and Huncote were thrown together, and from' the 
charms of Lulu, on which Moss dilated with an expertness 
that Huncote thought quite disgusting, somehow passed 
to music. 



36 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



! I 



i i 



" I'm not running him down exactly," said Moss, " but 
Chopin always makes me think of a middle-aged Victorian 
lady who was pretty once upon a time and remembers it, 
and waves a little handkerchief, scented with lavender, 
upon which, at proper musical intervals, she drops a little 
tear. But, if you agree with me, I'm surprised you won't 
take up Bach." 

" Maths," said Himcote, rather superciliously. 

" Well, what more do you want ? " said Moss, very 
serious. " Aren't maths beautiful ? Is there anything 
more beautiful than a sphere ? Think of the differences 
between geometrical figures, of the square, so determined, 
lumpy, John Bullish ; and what about the trapeze ? that 
slithery Machiavelli of geometry." His dark eyes glittered 
with the delight that anything purely intellectual always 
gave him. " Think of their movements, too," he said, 
"of the cycloid that goes on and on for ever, always 
travelling back and always travelling on." He blew. 
" Why, to think of the thing's exciting ! The cycloid is 
just like a fugue, always rising and falling, always seeming 
about to resolve itself and never doing it quite, but always 
carrying you, note by note, nearer to some wonderful 
satisfaction. See what I mean ? " 

" Yes, I think I do," said Huncote. His ears automa- 
tically registered Ditton's " Steady on, old chap," as Wray 
beUowed forth the possible end of his possibly endless 
story; the recruit had now been put into the trousers 
of a Boer farmer because they were the largest in South 
Africa ! But Huncote was puzzled by the queer little 
Jew, the aptness of this comparison of his, and the much 
more singular fact that, together with a sharp intellect, a 
swocming sesthetidsm could be found in the mean and 
mercenary son of a Hampstead stockbroker. Odd, too, 
he remembered that in Moss's rooms, in additicm to his 
rare enamels, there were two pictures of puppks. . . . 
Weill Huncote had been there once, and now, as he 
stared at Moss, who looked at him with a disgusting smug 



INTO HERE" 



37 



smile, pleased to think that he taught the superior Christ- 
ian something, he could see those two pictures : a puppy 
flying furiously at its own reflection in a mirror, entitled, 
" If you see a good thing, go for it 1 " And the other, the 
same puppy, galloping with a wasp on its tail, called, 
" If you are on a good thing, stick to it 1 " 

Huncote felt that there were in Moss things that he 
would never understand, and he wondered for a moment 
whether indeed this was not a case of East being East. 
He felt more charitably inclined to Moss, and as he 
sipped his port he thought he would get hold of him 
in the coming week and see whether there really was 
a race-difference. He could not, he thought, discuss 
just then a problem which Moss doubtless thought deli- 
cate. 

Hardly had they passed into the street than Huncote 
experienced a new sensation, or rather an increase in the 
pleasant light sensation he had felt towards the end of 
dinner. It had been very slight at the Trocadero, and here, 
in Coventry Street, a cool little wind blew from the east ; 
it felt quite sharp in comparison with that languid air 
full of scents of women, food, and flowers. There was 
nothing wrong, but Huncote knew that he was walking ; 
he could see perfectly straight, but he realised that he was 
seeing ; somehow the whole of those functions of the body 
which usually are unconscious had suddenly become a 
little insistent. He heard himself laughing onee and 
thought the sound silly. It was an epitome of Huncote's 
past life that he should wonder what was the matter 
with him. He felt inclined to tell Moss, who was explain- 
ing in a high and assured voice where he would find senti- 
mentality in Wagner, that he thought lobster was indi- 
gestible. He puUed himself up because he was not quite 
sure that he had eaten lobster ; it might have been cray- 
fish. Anyhow, both of them very bad foods for June. 
At that moment Ditton, who had been walking behind 
affectionately linked with Wray, drew abreast of them ; 



38 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



t i 



as he did so he seemed to impel Huncote to the abominably 
familiar step of taking his other arm. 

" Steady on, old chap," he murmured, " it's a bit early 
for you to get rosy." 

"Rosy?" cried Huncote. rather angry. "What the 
devil . . ." 

He stopped. Two women near a lamp-post opposite 
Appenrodt's stared, then obviously laughed at him. He 
grew very silent. Had he had too much to drink ? Absurd! 
He had had a glass of sherry and two glasses of Rudes- 
heimer, or was it three ? A glass of port, too, he remem- 
bered that ; and a liqueur with coffee. 

" Damn the liqueur ! That might have done it." 

He swore several times to hhnself, then blinked 
vigorously as if to get rid of two invisible feathers 
that seemed to have stuck in his eyelashes. Then, rather 
dimly, he heard Wray, to whom Ditton had evidently 
confided his disgrace : 

" Is he ? Well, that's two of us out of four. Not half 
bad for a quarter to ten." 

Huncote felt disgusted as Ditton sniggered, and told 
Wray he would have to put him to bed if he did not know 
nine o'clock when he heard it strike at St. Martin's church. 

But at that moment, when there was passing through 
Huncote's mind the impulse to say aloud and very 
definitely "that he would not be a party to a dis- 
gusting d-d-debauch," they entered the blaze of the 
European's lamps, and the energy went out of Huncote. 
He was like a moth against an electric bulb, dazzled, 
half-distraught, and yet delighted, like a captured woman 
that is afraid and charmed. Everything looked imreal in 
that minute — ^the marble steps, which he seriously counted ; 
the two commissionaires, titanic against the piUais; t e 
brilliant lobby, dim in comparison with the arc-lamps 
that above his head seemed to strike at him. The Euro- 
pean was a monster snake fastening upon its quarry 
immense blazing eyes, until of its own free will it entered 



INTO HERE 



39 



the big jaws and was swallowed. Even the crowd round 
him seemed fantastic— the poorly-clad girls and flashy 
men ; here and there a gaudy creature whose hair in the 
dry light was as a flame ; the poor crowd below the half- 
crown line, with open mouths watching the Olympians 
as they alighted from their cars on the edge of the red 
carpet ; the Olympian men with the red and brown faces 
and the moulded heads of hair ; their women, just big, 
scented rustles, so bold from head to waist and so fm-led 
and shrinking about the silk-clad ankles. . . 

Then here they were inside, all four in a row. Moss 
was at the end byDitton ; Wray came next; and Huncote, 
on the outside, found himself preoccupied by a fluffy 
person so pink that it was difficult to know where she 
began and her blouse stopped, a little person who lan- 
gmshed and sprawled, and every now and then licked her 
hps with a flicking Uttie pink tongue as if she were ihinWng 
of chocolate or kisses. Huncote pulled himself together, 
for the change from the rather sharp air of Leicester 
Square into the atmosphere of the European, which 
was rather like that of the restaurant, had done him good • 
his eyes were aU right again now, and he could see quite 
clearly on the right and left of the stage the enormous 
figure 4 m the electric light. He heaved a sigh and 
laughed. "That's better," he thought, "it's four right 
enough ; I might have made it 14." 

He watched the turn with interest. The four Tartinis. 
two men and two women, were doing rather wonderful 
acrobatic things ; tossing each other into the air and 
It seemed, remaining there suspended for an appreciable 
time. Huncote at once grew excited, as if the drmk had 
loosened something in him and self-restraint had passed 
away. One of the men was tossing the other one into 
the air and catching him as he fell as if he were a ball 
every time in an odder attitude. Huncote found himself 
quite tense, for it seemed as if inevitably he must miss • 
then he drew his breath sharply, for with a great effort 



-ir 



Ml 



40 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

the younger man had been thrown high into the air, and 
with incredible swiftness one of the girls had passed to 
the juggler a great cup mto which, without a fraction of 
space to spare, he re Jved the falling man. Huncote 
found himself slightly blinking, absurdly wondering the 
while how it was that for the first time in his life he could 
enjoy an acrobat. ♦• The little pink girl, who aU the while 
had been talking to her own male friend, threw him a 
sidelong glance and giggled ; leaving her hands between 
those of her escort, she cahnly laid her shoulder against 
Huncote's. He looked at her sideways, and then, as if 
something impersonal urged him on, contentedly thrust 
his own shoulder a little more forward. He felt faintly 
drowsy; he watched idly upon the stage four pretty 
American girls who sang some idiotic chorus about doing 
something or other at a pinch, which resulted in something 
else being a dnch. He felt happy, and took no notice 
of Wray, who now talked continuously in a contented 
undertone. The air was heavy with tobacco, and 
there were scents all about him; his mind seemed 
at rest and his body was stimulated. He was con- 
scious of so many scents; not only tobacco, but 
sweeter scents and rank ones of sweat, of burning 
oils, of hot paint; he could feel the velvet of the 
seat in front on his sprawling knees, the soft warmth 
of the girl's shoulder against his, the irritating tickle- 
tickle about his forehead when a feather from her hat 
touched him. 

He lay back. He felt sultanian in this large cushioned 
seat, with his dancers performing over there for him to the 
sound of his own band. He grew interested, he par- 
ticularised, he forgot the absurd chorus and, one by one, 
began to criticise his dancers : the tall girl upon the left, 
with the fine, well-set head and the tragic dark eyes made 
so deep by her blued eyelids, and the other tall one with 
the wicked red hair, and the third who didn't matter, 
and the little sprite in the middle who danced so quickly 



INTO HERE 



41 



that every one of her pretty curves seemed as she moved 
to twinkle in the light. . . . 
A comedian sang : 

Adam and Eve went out one day 

To look at the sh^p down Eden way 

And when a tailoi s shop they leacheu 

Said Eve, " It's time that you were bieeched." 

Turn, turn, tee didlee um, 

Didlee din and didlee um. 

Turn, turn, tee didlee um. 
Said Adam, " I'm a Scotchman." 

In his laziness he was conscious of Wray, who now 
held him by the elbow, and from time to time gently 
shook him to make sure he had his attention. With 
some difficulty he pulled himself out of his drugged state 
and managed to listen ; then he nearly laughed aioud. 
Wray seemed to have entered the third stage of drunken- 
ness. From irrelevancy he had passed to women ; now he 
was growing theologicjil. 

"I don't pretend to know much about these things 
but what I say's this: if there wasn't anything after 
we're dead, weU, what's to prevent one from being as big 
a rotter as one likes ? " 

"Oh, yes, quite so," said Huncote, laiily. He had 
settled the ethical question long ago. But Wray had 
not, and he went on at the ethics mixed up with the 
rules of good form which serve his kind as a faith and 
assert themselves after a bad evening at bridge, a crevice 

j in the heart, or a heavy cold. 

" Awfid cheek of me," went on Lord Alastau-, " talking 

j to you like this. I'm a plain man. The governor always 
caUed me the village idiot, still there's something about 
babes and sucking somethings, ain't there? I've for- 
gotten the rest. Better ask Mossy, be knows everything. 

[Mossy does." 

Then to Huncote's delight Wray leant across Ditton 
and beUowed: " Mossy 1 I say. Mossy! what's that 
|m the BiUe about babes and sucking somethings 



42 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



:| 



... you know, something that gives my sort a 
chance ? " 

Half-a-doxen people in the row in front turned, and 
Huncote found himself feebly giggling in answer to that 
long array of smiles. Somewhere somebody said : " Dis- 
graceful!" Huncote found himself still giggling as if he 
could not stop, and affectionately pushing his shoulder 
still further on to meet the advances of the little pink 
girl, who still made conscientious efforts to occupy both 
her neighbours together. . . . 

Ditton managed to suppress Wray, presmnably by giving 
him a satisfactory message from Moss, for at intervals, 
as other turns flickered on the stage, comediennes in 
bodices cut as low as possible and skirts as high as possible, 
burnt cork and red-nose men, r.nd people who played 
tunes on tumblers, Huncote could hear him murmur : 

"That's right. Mossy got it all right. Blowed if I 
know how he finds these things out." And from time to 
time be tugged at Huncote's sleeve : " He's a m-m-m 
marvel, don't you think ? Eh ? ■' And, although Hun- 
cote did not reply : " I quite agree with you." 

Huncote was memorising from the programme the 
names of proprietor, managing director, assistant ditto 
and manager. The words JEYES' FLUID grew enormous 
in his brain. . . . 

Then the interval, some music and a shuffle all over the 
theatre, stumblings over feet and protests against the 
squashing of hats. Huncote found himself threading his 
way out. Moss leading the way. Now that he moved he 
felt queer again; mechanically he registered that Moss 
was telling Ditton what he thought of Ganne, the strains 
of whom were, he declared, driving him into the promenade. 
" I'd rather be as blind as Alastair." he said, " than 
listen to that flatulent muck any longer." 

The promenade. This was the first time he had ever 
been in the European promenade. A few times before 
he had, with his mother and friends of her choosing. 



INTO HERE' 



43 



gone to the Alhambra or to theatres, but instinctively, 
as if something in him rebelled and were afraid, he had 
never before been entangled in those imdergraduate 
parties that came to London to get gloriously drunk, to 
look at women with a dare-devil air and a shy, shrinking 
heart. And here he was sort of pushed into it, right 
into the middle of it, under the leadership of a man who 
seemed to have worn this excitement thin. Huncote 
stared about him as he were from Oxfordshire and not 
from Oxford. The crowded promenade filled him with 
amazement, this heterogeneous aowd of middle-aged 
men m hard hats and short coats, with pugnacious short 
noses and a North Country air, the Londoners, some of 
whom actually wore the ties that one saw in the show- 
cases. He identified a purple poplin, price half-a-crown 
and too small to tie, and absurdly thought himself very 
clever. Foreigners, too, many of them negroid Portuguese 
or South American ; German clerks, unable to move their 
; necks mside their collars ; and gabbling litUe Frenchmen, 
who looked at the women with an air half-insolent, half- 
lascivious. But it was the women afiected him most. 
Their slow, circulating stream round the promenade, 
from the furthest right to the furthest left and then back 
again. They passed by him, nearly aU furtively smiling, 
with a professional manoeuvre of the eye. For a moment 
the flow stopped, and one of them, quite dark, with her 
hau- dressed so low over her forehead that it ahnost touched 
Iher eyebrows, was wedged against him. She did not 
Ispeak, but moulded herself against his shoulder and arm 
las If she were fluid and obedient. Her lips parted as she 
^miled a little. Slowly she raised her left eyelid, expanded 
Jhe dark eye, rolling it inwards and then a UtUe up ; then 
the eyehd gradually feU and the mouth grew demure. 
Huncote felt all shaken, but rather with fear than desire. 
Instinctively the woman knew it. She looked boldly 
Into his eyes, and then with a pout and the insolent ai 
w one who cannot waste time, a shoulder movement that 



44 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

was half a shrug, she passed on, leaving him wounded 
as if somebody had called him " You little boy ! * The 
words of a song. " Papering the Parlour," passed through 
his darkness : 

Mother was stuck to the ceil-/Mf, 

The kids were stuck to the floor. 
You never saw such a blooming fuaily 

So stuck up before. 

It had not lasted more than two or three seconds, but 
he felt so dulled that without any apparent struggle 
with his reason he agreed to Ditton's suggestion, and 
followed his friends into the bar. Indeed, he found himself 
quite combative as he forced his way to the edge of the 
counter and with difficulty drew the attention of the 
flashy, tow-headed and peach-skinned barmaid who, 
with such wonderful speed and an indolence ahnost graceful, 
tugged at various levers and poured from flying bottles. 
He drank his whiskey and soda right off; more boldly 
he looked at the women on the seats round the saloon, 
many of them alone, some with one man, some laughing 
4. '^h in the midst of a group. He stared so aggressively 

a young woman in scarlet that she got up, came to him, 
and said : " Hallo, saucy 1 aren't you going to stand me 
a drink?" 

For the first time in his life Huncote found himself 
replying: "RATHER," without feeling at aU sickened 
by his own poor archness. Things grew more confused. 
He drank off another whiskey and soda with the girl in 
scarlet; he was conscious of some disagreement with 
Moss, who seemed to object to the women. Then 
with clearing eyes he found that the girl in scarlet 
had linked arms with a neighbour, obviously a soldier 
in mufti, and that most of the other women were 
looking at him and ogling him as if they had marked 
him out as their special quarry. He was critical and 
bold now ; he saw that the large creature heaving in her 
white frock, like an enonnons Dutch doll who had run 



INTO HERE 



45 



upstairs too fast, must be over the twenty-three or twenty- 
four years she seemed to advertise. AU of them, he could 
appraise them at their true value : the slim dark snake in 
gold and amber, and the donah with the big white ruffle 
and the feather hat, and that dangerous little mincing 
fraud with the poke-bonnet and the innocent pink rosM 
I along the hem of her white frock. . 
J It seemed so very much later. First, he was struggling 
iout of the European with his friends, aware of one thing 
. only, a fierce and ccmtinuous blowing of cab whistles, and 
m something large that solemnly said : " Pass along there I 
I Pass along gentlemen, please." something that shoved 
^and got in the way. . . . 

i Then he was in a taxi, along with Wray. his other 
Icompanions lost in the crowd. With Wray's arm round 
Ihis neck, Wray rather tearful now. and, strangest of all 
Hwo girls he did not know, whom he had not even seen 
inside the European ; one of them screamed with laughter 
M somethmg unknown, and the other, just a dark, veiled 
languor, silent in the comer. . . . 
And then it aU went on as if he were tumbUng down a 
oft slope He giggled as he thought of old-fashioned 
ames. roUing down Primrose HiU; it must have felt a 
Mttle hke that. And lights and smore food somewhere 
nd smore drink. Everything seemed to go so fast some^ 
liow. and other things to happen so unexpectedly For 
Krhat was he doing now ? AU alone this time in another 
ab. dnvmg to he did not know where with a fair-haired 
omebody who seemed to think everything so funny. 
The somebody said one thing he remembered : " Shut 
our face, dear. I see your Christmas dinner. ^. » 
It was several days later before he could rimember 
ome of the rest, and then it was not much : brilliant 
freets giving place to quieter ones, broad roads where 
hey were still selling vegetables, with trams passing in 
Je middle, roaring and coming out of the night like 
teflies. And a taU block of flats near Southampton 



IB f 



46 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



Row. An impression of light and horrid, insinuating 
luxury; he half perceived an atmosphere too pink, too 
la2y, a flashy vulg^irity made to entice the vulgar. He 
felt a tinsel being in a tinsel scene. And then a sort of 
growing, uneasy gap of time, an inability to realise what 
happened, whether pleasing or abominable. He did not 
know. It was as if he had been thrown out of a dream 
into life about four o'clock in the morning to find himself 
standing in the middle of Theobald's Road, with a palate 
like a nutmeg grater, and a head into the left side of 
which some engineer was steadily boring a txmnel. 

• • • • • 

For a minute or two he did not know where to go to. 
He did not know London well. If only he covld find 
Paddington or Euston ! He knit up his brows in the 
effort to make up his mind, and it hurt his head, as if 
even his mind ached. The night was cold, and above a 
very deep-blue heaven, studded with golden stars, looked 
down upon him with an air of detachment ; there were 
no trains and no stalls now, and the shops were shuttered ; 
there was nobody about except a sleepy bundle of rags 
and dirt on the steps of a bank. Huncote looked vaguely 
at the thing, male or female, who coiild say ? Sex seemed 
to have fled with youth and beauty from the dim thing 
that crouched against the stone, losing less warmth to 
that cold stone than it would have lost to the cold wind. 
He gazed half-fasdnated at the feet lost in enormous 
boots with soles gaping away from the uppers ; one foot 
was revealed by a strip of dirty pink flesh. He thought 
of asking the thing his way. Then he shuddered, he 
could not draw nearer to It somehow. He was afraid 
of It, as one is afraid of a body that has died horribly 
and that gapes with disease or blood, as one is afraid 
unreasonably of a harmless ghost. But, then, the thing 
was dead in a way, except tha;t it still crawled about. 
No, he could not ask It . . . the way to the Ritz, 
for argument's sake. He laughed ; It seemed humorous 



INTO HERE 



47 



somehow. But abruptly his laughter stopped ; he felt 
ashamed, as if the creature could knov/ tLt h^ ^ 
teuatmg It with wealth. So very sofUy he tip^oed^ 

P^ S!Tun^J^"^^a^o„rfe 

lest It might be too hateful, or perhaps because he mI 
before the thing that Ufe had left st^deS^h al^t' 

deTTha? nf "iT^ "^* ^"« feels lIVo^":^ 
11: C^ ^ followed hun as he walked towards the 

felt It behmd hmi. sUent at firet like a shadoTand ihS 
more ins^ent. He looked round, and thSTJi notlS? 
He hurried on. and could hear behind him the danS 
N the loose soles. It was abominable. thisligh?Cm 
the hound of heaven. He passed through bS^ sS 

nicely pamted. twinkling in the gas-lamw with e^Z 

fcriocker and beU-pull nicely polishc^sS SiS 

C °'''^~^:* ^"* "^^ there Smder two^LiSn^^f 

ti'S^'th ? r ?" «> «"«nt except for thf i^vSe 

pro a rapid shuffle. His nerves were in pieces and he haH 

r^Z"""^ ^''.*° P"^* himseSSZ^'ng"^ 

asl^'no^.Tr" tw^^" ^^^ ^^^ ^*' ^P^-' 

l£~^^^^^^ =^:;h: tytr -de" Ti 

freniT' %«>°^°rtmg lump of law and order. Hmicote 

t the°:silo^r f 1 ^"^ ^"^^^ -»- " -" 

stead oTt^t' '^^'^ f^^^y^ S° *^^* *h« police 

^t^ t 7^^ ^'^y ^" *^«»- *n»ey would toow 

" Lk' ^,."^' he hesitated. He Ustened • There 

nothing behmd him now. as if It feared Ughttd 



48 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



III 






policemen, as if It could not follow him into those places 
where was food and strength. And at once Huncote 
realist that he missed it now, that it made him feel 
base to have deserted it, to have walked so fast that 
it could not catch him up. A lame dog had tried to get 
over a stile : he had not helped it. What was the use 
of a shilling ? Indeed, he might have struck it if it tried 
to struggle over. So he passed by the two policemen 
without speaking to them. They looked incuisitorially 
at this tall young man with the wry tie and the wild air. 
The look lasted not a second, for the experts knew what 
was the matter with him, and did not want the worthless 
credit of interfering with a man who ... 

One policeman put it to the other : 

"Booief What's o'clock ? " 

But as he passed them and for a oMunent encountered 
the cold gaze that seems to pierce all coverings, Huncote 
had shrunk away ; he had wcmdered what they thought, 
whether they would speak to him, whether somehow he 
had not done something wrong, just as if the thing which 
had acamipanied him and its shufiSe-shu£Be had entered 
into him and filled him with its fears. It was horriUe, 
this sense of unity, and then for a moment it was delight- 
ful. That night, caught in the web of an instinct he did 
not understand, which had never touched him before, 
he had in a drunken dream attempted in the arms of 
woman to achieve union with his fellows. He had failed, 
and here he was with a hot mouth and tight eyes. Then 
quite suddenly, without word or touch, his fellows had 
come to him out of that verminous heap of dirt, clasped 
him. Oh, ]»%po6terous prodigy ! As Huncote walked 
on through little streets, darker and darker, passed pubUc- 
houses where glimmered but one light at the back, there 
was something radiant in his soul that he could not 
exfxcss yet. His head hurt less now, for the night air 
soothed it, and he saw details better. Dawn was break- 
ing and very faintly; here and there he could hear life 



{ 



INTO HERE' 



49 



bemg bom agam with a few sighs. Indeed, it was dawn, 

the deep Hue of the sky had already greyed, and now 
into the grey climbed a mauveness thatwitiT eX 
moment enriched itself with rose. Everything was siS 

heU^J'^'"! *^*' ^," ^^"^^ *^««d "^« eastern sty 
rL^ ^^- \'^ *^°^^- «« "stened for the 
cock to aow agam. but for a long time it did not. Only 
a man passed m the miifonn of the Great Northern. 
Huncote. m his receptive state of mind, guessed that he 
was gomg to work at King's Cross. BelS struck at the 
neighbourmg church : a quarter to five. At once Huncote 

S) ^^"i "T^"®' ^^ "^y *^gs streamed up 
before hmi. He thought of the rich and of himself oS 
other mommgs at a quarter to five, sleeping with their 

f^'t.''^ \^''^'' P'"°^' whaeTjs railwaymi 
dragged from his bed in the night, went out to^ 
Sntri? to their pleasure. It was abominable.^ 

.nV'X'^T^^ '*°PP®*^ ** *^® "^^ to «ght his pipe, 
and then he went on. occasionally taking the pipe from 

wT*5 1° wWstlethe -British Grenadie^." If^Kte 
had heard hmi it would have interfered with the dreaiT 

Aviated Jf^^^li^'i ""^.'"^"^g London mirolled. 
t^u- ?^*."?^^l«d past him towards Covent Garden, 

Si K "".!? ^.^d^^en feiry tale. Milk carts beg^to 

carts. But at the comer of a street, the name of which he 
read casually Fordingley Road, was a coflee^taU with ite 
hghts still defjdng the coming day, and Huncote SusS 
Im J;^ T *^*y' "^^^ "P *** *^« staU and asked for a 
2^5 rn;^?1' ^'T, ^'""^ had he been to a coffee-stau! 
and It looked queer, like the kitchen of a caravan in a now^ 
with Its swmgmg oil-lamp and polished reflector, its white 
JTockery. the pil^ of bread^d-butter that loS^ei t^^! 
mg m front of the urn. Huncote. as he begun to drink 

4 



i \ 

\ 
1 



50 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



the coffee, whicb was burning hot, threw a sidelong glance 
at the cheerful Silenus who kept the stall ; he looked so 
large because over his vast paunch spread a white apron, 
and so cheerful with bulging cheeks touched by rosacia, 
and forward juttings made up of his mouth, his chin, his 
second chin, and probably his third chin. The man 
watched Huncote narrowly, for he was not one of those 
West End stall-keepers who are well accustomed to 
customers in evening dress. 

" Cold night for this time of the year." 

" Yes, isn't it ? " said Huncote. Then, feeling it neces- 
sary to say something more : " Don't you find it trying ? " 

" Oh, I dunno," said the stall-keeper, " you got to take 
the good with the bad. Life, you know, it's just one dam 
thing after another, eh, Mike ? " He turned towards the 
other customer, a labourer on his way to work, who evi- 
dently found it more convenient to have his breakfast at 
the stall than at the doss. 

Mike had the bulkiest shoulders and the smallest legs 
that Huncote had ever seen. He was blue-jawed and 
hojvse, with a flashy red-and-green choker of which he 
evidently was proud, for he had spread both ends over his 
shirt. 

" Aye," he said. He threw an inquisitive glance at Hun- 
cote. Somehow a gentleman made him feel half-awkward, 
half-hostile. Then, very curiously : " Off to see yer Aunt 
Maria?" 

" I beg your pardon." said Huncote, " what did you ask ? " 

" Oh, nothin', on'y wondered." 

Well, of course, they would wonder, but Huncote wished 
he knew what the man had asked him. Without under- 
standing him quite he was still craving for community. 
The stall-keeper helped him a little by returning to the 
onisideration of life. 

"Yes," he said, half to himself, "life's a funny thing. 
You never ask for it and you have it shoved on to you, 
and you take a sort o' fancy to it. . . ." 



••• . . INTO HERE" 5x 

• Gawd knows why," remarked Bfike. 
" f don't know why." said the staU-keeper, aggressively 

atout the time when you've got kind o' fond of it. wei, it 

""^Z.^'K'V^^^ ^^^' "y°" ^°n't be missed." 
Dartmoor'U be sorry when you're took." said the stall 
keeper casuaUy. succumbing to a forty-^ar^fd habfjf 
pving rt for tat « But. as I was sa^ng. life's a ft^„y 
thmg. It comes and ,t goes ; Uke the rheumatics. Ifrten 
o cicKk and I gets the staU out. and then it's one o'clock ^3 
the flashy sort drops in with their fancy men af^er they^ 

t^eAo ^^""^ ^" *^' Tottenham Court Road." ^He 
turned towards Huncote : « We get a reelar Wo^t Fmi 

S-^/" t^T ^' h« -id. rither p^^^dl^ «S^ 
then ,t sort o' scatters. There's a man from the ma^et 
now and then, and Euston o' course. Tien laTe^ o„ 

w^f ,J^T^^^. ^""""^ t^e direction of his dance 
and for he first time became conscious of anotherSrT 
a man leanmg against a lamp-post, curiously LS' 

for tteS '\'^'' "" '» ^™ "^ « "-P o^ee 
StiU, if a gent wants to stand treat ■ ' 

Ue^so^y as w^n .e ffl" ^^- ^t - 



Hungry ?» he said. The 



man did not reply. He 



was 



5« 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 






still leaning against the lamp-post, looking at him with 
vacuous eyes. Huncote made an efiort, took him by the 
arm. " Have a cup of coffee with me," he said. The man 
did not move, and as Huncote looked he foimd that he had 
coiled an arm round the lamp-post. He shrank away, 
for the thing was limp. He was dead. 
^ " Wish I'd known," said the stall-keeper, a little later. 
" Been standing there two or three hours ; they veiy often 
does, you know ; they get someth'ag in the end. Mike 1 
I say, Mike I " 

But Mike was already ten paces away. He turned as 
he went and called over his shoulder : 

" I ain't seen nothing, you don't get me to the 
coroner ! " 

" Can't leave, the stall." said its owner. " You might tell 
a policeman when you see one." And he sighed com- 
fortably : " Sparrows can't fall without His 'avin' a hand 
in it, as they says in church." 

As he walked away in the growing light, Huncote 
realised that this was life. Here were the people, speaking 
a language he hardly understood, using grammar that was 
repulsive to him, eating food that sickened him and prob- 
ably not enough of that, anxious lest they should be late 
for work and lose it. Dirty, unshaven, untaught, sleep- 
less. And he donnish and modish 1 He was conscious 
of a violent artificiality in the life he led. an artificiality 
which, if it locked the poor out. locked him in. As the 
people grew about him in the early morning, the men with 
their tool-bags, the girls hunying towards the trams with 
little pinched faces, the newspaper boys distributing the 
folded sheets before they went to school, Huncote realised 
that here indeed was something that called him, something 
that needed him ; the activities that had rebelled against 
the other artifices, the fellowship and the spaee at the 
European, were to wed him unto the people, to bring him 
dose to them, to make their lives lighter, to fill his own. 
... It was delicious, it was Uke a personal revelation. 



CHAPTER THE THIRD 

THE PEACE OF ST. OLAVES 



'why I didn't tell 



§1 

" I WONDER," said Huncote aloud 
Gorsley." ' 

OiSL^'It.^w w? railway-carriage, on his way to St. 
Sen^ ^^l • ? ^'? ^'^^^^ regretfully, for he had not 
been so long m London as not to love her as she lav in Zl 

hesitated over the little viaduct that spans the reSr^r 
whence are discovered the two Welih I^ I 

t«auty in theplain that rises S^Jfl'S'ftfc^sSTar,'' 
It was cold and autumn hung ™th blue Ite^e^ rf r^j 
hedges rarely flecked mth crisp red berries R,S^ b 

u?br™:pSr tztr:zi:'z/£r 

teSenrtYi t^t-Sd^ ^tsfiS 
so unfamiliar, and that S^I^m J* i "^^^^^.^t first 
monastir in *h^ -T ^«™ent, large, white and 

imon^tic. m the comdors of which he I(»t himself hoM 
already grown intimate after a week tW «^?' 



54 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



vKn not for him, but that he had joined the St. Panwich 
Lay Settlement with the intention of " bringing a gleam 
of sunshine into the life of the poor." He shrank as he 
thought of the phrase which had been used in Churtcm's 
office, when he in a way enlisted, by a lady he did not know, 
who later, he remembered, talked at great length and with 
extreme violence about the iniquity of the White Save 
Traffic. 

There was something wrong about the phrase; Hun- 
cote's culture, which was mainly Latin and Greek, rebelled 
against it. But then he told himself not to be priggish. 
Not to be priggish seemed, indeed, just now his chief occu- 
pation, for he realised, Uttle by little, that if he had not 
told Gorsley it was because this offering-up of self would 
have seemed priggish ; also Gorsley would have wanted to 
know why, and how and when (let alwie if and though), 
and that would have meant telling him how three mcmths 
before he had got drunk and . . . and a lot more ; 
been a blowi, in fact. And Huncote realised that it would 
have made hxL.i still more priggish in his own eyes to pose 
as a reformed blood, a sort of St. Paul or Ignatius of 
Loyola. Indeed, it was not only with Gorsley that he 
had felt this ; he had felt it with other people. He tried 
to pass it off lightly as " getting an idea of the condi- 
tion of the people," or used other glib phrases which led 
people to believe he intended to stand for Parliament. 
He did not quite deny this, so that his romantic intentions 
were accepted as odd but fairly respectable. 

Still, as the telegraph wires ran up and dovn by his 
window and he drew nearer to St. Olaves, he felt the halo 
getting heavier on his head. He laughed; the higher 
one got up in sainthood the larger the halo grew ; there 
must be a moment when it gave one a headache and sin 
took the place of phenacetin. They would look at him, he 
knew, as if he were a curate without the dignity of office, 
something like a dancing dervish trained to a certain extent 
by a public school And the worst of it was that so far he 



THE PEACE OF ST. OLAVES 55 

had done nothing much at the Settlement ; he had learnt 
Je geography of St. Panwich. which had been a rather 
d|5^ting affiur. as it continuaUy led him into little 
streets from which the refuse was swept only by heavy 

^;Jf • rr^ ^?^ ^ °^ trams/ and. woVse sS 
perhaps mto bare, silent places where on the one side 
J^re genteel homes of sooty brick and stucco, with Notting- 
ham lace curtains, "apartment » cards, green china flo^. 
pots (or puJc) in the ground floor front window, and on 
Uie other side a blank waU extending, it seemed, for mUes. 
along a railway goods yard or an indiarubber works, unless 
the smeU was bad malt. Those were the worst streets, so 
long and bleak, so populous between eight and nine znd 

fi^K "T"!/^^" "^'^ ^^ shorthand ladies issued 
t^^^ J?t^?d. deserted at other times, and maintaining 
so well the private contempt that prevents No. 10 from 
bemg contammated by No. ix. Much better he liS 
Crapps Lane that straggled away behind the Settlement. 

u ^. T^^ ^^^ *^' *"^ P^ shouting butchers. 
He had addr^ envelopes for a meeting : the^first S 

k!^"*'*^*^ ^f^"^' ^« ^ decked accounts and. 
on bemg tdd to do so. more or less forged a voucher fS 
e^ses. Smce then he went about rather uneasy in case 
one day the auditor should find it out. Still, he had his 
halo. Sticlqr things, haloes I 
Ekpeth was waiting for him at the station. This was 

Tflf^'S^* ^X^^ "^* ^*' if it had been his moS 
or flufify Flora there would have been tittle-tattle about the 
neighbours, or they would have talked about the weather 

tLT!^^- ..^"^J""" ^ ^^P^' ^^' brown-ey«d. 
thm4,pped rather flat-chested, as usual in weU-fiS 
tweeds, with her air of knowing what she wanted in liff 
and domg it, to^-conf ound her I Huncote disliked Elspeth 
a^^a woman and liked her as a companion, a horrid ^m- 
bmation when one is feeling nervous.^ 
" HaUo I » said Elspeth, 



5<» 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



" Hallo t " said Huncote. He struggled with his bag. 

" Let me give you a hand," said Ebpeth. 

" Oh. don't trouble." 

But as he tried to get the bag, which was rather too l<mg. 
through the carriage doorway Elspeth's hard, capable hand 
shot out, seized one of the handles, and with one haul 
brought the bag thudding on to the platform. HuAOOte 
followed without a word of thanks. He hated Elspeth 
in her moods of hearty efficiency, but she, quite unconscious, 
had aheady called a porter by a loud " Hi ! " quite devoid 
of self-consciousness, and in a few seconds was bustling 
brother, porter, and bag towards the wicket. 

When they got into the High Street Huncote had to 
answer a few questions. Yes, he was feeling pretty fit. 
Yes, he had had a good journey. For Elspeth, in virtue 
of living at St. Olaves ten months or so a year, had the 
country habits of such interests. As they went oa he had 
to say how long he was staying and what train he thought 
he would catch on the way back, also to notice the new 
wing at the fire station, to which Elspeth added a threat 
that he should visit it on Monday before he left. He grew 
quite sulky. 

Hang the girl, with her little interests. . . . And 
then he pulled himself up. No, he mustn't be priggish, 
he mustn't be swollen out with his metropolitan quality, 
his experience of the lower classes. He was about to 
frame an intelligent question destined to lead Elspeth to 
talk of the things that interested them both, the latest 
essays, for instance, when again he was paralysed by the 
idea that if he did that he would feel still more patronising. 
Fortunately Mrs. Huncote's house lay but ten minutes 
from the station, and fortunately, too, he arrived so late 
as to have but a few minutes over before he dressed for 
dinner. So he just had time to kiss his mother and 
Flora, who were quite shrill and excited and trickling 
comments on his new suit and the extortionate behaviour 
of the porter, before he went to his bedroom. It struck 



THE PEACE OF ST. OLAVES 57 

him that he had not Idsbed Elspeth : somehow one didn't. 
With a httle sigh of exasperation he undid his bag and 
began to diess. There was about aU this something that 
annoyed hmi, and made him think of a cloud of midges 
dancing in the summer above a road. 

§2 
The Huncotes were a family without a history, in the 
sense that theirs was so very much the history of any other 
family. There was not even a black sheep ir. the colonies • 
the nearest approach was Roger in the Settlement. Colonel 
Huncote had hidden away his wife and family in the house 
at St. Olaves, in the way common to soldiers who have 
entrusted their destinies to the Colonial Office. From 
tmie to time Mrs. Huncote disappeared, leaving the 
house m charge of her elder sister, now dead, to join her 
husband for a few months in East Africa or Singapore 
But by the time Roger was ten his father was dead, killed 
under Kitchener at Omdurman. and Mrs. Huncote had 
settled into pretty widowhood. Of the three children 
tlspeth alone remembered the wanderer at all well the 
queer beads and the silver-studded shawls he brought 
from foreign parts. Flora had but one memory of hL 
a box of Turkish deUght, bought, she vowed, at Pera' 
which was not likely. To Roger his father was a 
sort of legend, whose tellings had not always coincided 
with the hohdays of his first year at the preparatory 
something that dropped assegais about the house and 
then vanished, leaving his mother the pretty centre 
,of a private world. It was fortunate from his son's 
jpomt of view that Colonel Huncote had not Uved. for 
I tftey were so much alike that they would probably have 
.disliked each other intensely; he would have disliked 
his father as he disliked Elspeth, and not forgiven him. 
because to a man what is annoying in a woman is hateful 
[m another man. Colonel Huncote had aU the hard 
[generous absurdity of his son-principles, sense of duty' 



I' ' 



S8 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

and so forth. He had made up his mind to serve the 
Empire just as Roger made up his mind to serve the 
people; he had thought woman inferior and lovable, 
and so he had left his son about seven hundred a year, 
with the reversion after bis motlwr's death of a further 
nine hundred, while Elspeth and Flora were given two 
hundred and fifty a year each when their mother died; 
until then nothing. All through their life their freedom 
was to be measured out by trustees ; he had thought 
that women should rule the household, and that was 
why Mrs. Huncote dominated her daughters' incomes, 
but subject to man ; so she, too, had trustees. And he 
emphasised his belief in man by letting Roger, of whom 
he was proud because the child had achieved the feat 
of being his only son, have seven hundred a year to 
play with when he was twenty-one. 

All this in a way had repeated itself in Roger, though 
never having had to think of money he never thought of 
it now. While dependence had made Elspeth hard and 
Flora sly, independence had made Roger ignorant. He 
had been a rich undergraduate, but he had not been an 
extravagant one. For, like his father, he was not very 
liable to impulses. Ideas came to him slowly, and when 
they came they set every day harder and harder, like 
cement. Intuitions did come to him, too, but only by 
degrees, and that was why he made few friends, for by 
the time he became quite sure that he wanted to know 
them they had generally got a little tired of wanting to 
know him. 

Always he felt a little his isolation ; he was capable of 
everything that those dose-set, deep-set eyes promised : 
every generosity, every heroism, every folly, and every 
cruelty when once the impelling idea had properly got 
into his head. But an impulse had made him foUow 
when Swinburne piped : though he could not be influenced 
he could be carried away, because he disliked to refuse 
to do anything that somebody else wanted him to do. 



THE PEACE OF ST. OLAVES 59 

He had got drunk because he might have hurt Ditton'i 
leehngs if he refused to drink, and it was quite possible 
though he would never know it, that some obscure sense' 
of chivalry had prevented him from leaving in the lurch 
that fair-haired creature, whose face he certainly could 
not remember, and refusing to drive with her to Theobald's 
Road. So he rather disliked his own impulses; they 
were thmgs that interfered with his cahn affections, with 
the reasonable allowances he liked to make for people's 
unreasonableness. He was troubled with youth, or rather 
he had the mind of a boy in the body of a man. There 
lay his secret weakness, the idealism that made him the 
prey of his own ideal. Romantic, he wanted to believe 
what he believed just because he beUeved it, and it was 
cricket to go on believing it. When in a romantic mood 
lus reason could be snubbed and he could hope, pursuimr 
the shadow, to turn it into a prey. 

S3 

"WeU.- said Mrs. Huncote, with the cheerful smilinj? 
emphasis that generaUy accompanies that word, "and 
how d'you hke the Settiement ? - 

"I can't say yet, mother," said Huncote. "After a 
week you d hardly expect me to." 

L/ ?"Y ^f ^peih. " you must have formed some idea 
I of whether it's any good." 

L",^^' °f/°"^' it's some good,- said her brother, " any- 
bc^y coijd see that, but I can't make up my mind lite 
that. He .topped. He felt dishonest; he was reaUy 

lenthusiastic about the Settlement, but it seemed youthful 

So said Flora, throwmg him from her large grey eyes 
H of her archest looks. «so, Roger, we sh^'t^ ^ 
hnth your coUar back to front, shall we?" Huncote 
Jooked imtated, and Flora went on chipping him, mu^ 
*o ks annoyance for they were at dinner ind the parloi^ 
maid was bstemng. « I've always wanted to have a 



60 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 






brother in the Church," said Flora, sweetly. " Somebody 
who looked starved and pale, and interesting, you know, 
Roger. Somebody rather saintly ; they look so nice at 
tea. But, oh, I do wish they wouldn't wear collars like 
that ; why can't they wear something really nice . . . 
let us say an amethyst toby frill ? " 

Mrs. Huncote laughed. "Hush, Floral That sounds 
very ritualistic. What would the Dean say if bs heard you ? " 

Even Elspeth entered into the chipping. " Anyhow, 
saints never shave and seldom wash, Roger; think of 
the trouble it'll save you ! " 

Her brother flung her a savage look. Somehow, though 
he prized her intelligence, he stood less from her than 
fiom his lighter mother and sister. " Don't be silly," he 
snapped, "you know quite well there's nothing churchy 
about the Settlement. We're just a little crowd who 
have come together to see if we can teach the . . ." 
He grew fiercely oppressed by the maid, who held on 
his left a dish of finger chips. " Well, you know what I 
mean, people who aren't as well off as we are." 

He helped himsdf to potatoes revengefully, because the 
maid had a rather coarse red hand, and he was acutely 
conscious of the social difference between it and the rosy 
finger-tips that played with Flora's napkin ring. There 
was a little silence on this serious proclamation. Elspeth 
gave a faint sniff, and Flora hesitated as if she had been 
caught teasing an elephant with a peacock's feather. 
Then Mrs. Huncote, who already repented the teasing 
she had been a party to, said, quite mildly: 

"Well, well, leave him alone, girls; after all, we must 
all do something in life." 

This diplomatic speech was to Roger more galling than 
even the teasing, for his mother meant that he had " taken 
up " sodal work as he might have " taken up " journalism 
or golf. But he Messed her for the diversion, and strove 
to increase the gap by introducing a new subject. The 
parlourmaid having left the room, he plunged. 



THE PEACE OF ST. OLAVES 6z 

• How's Tninch ? I haven't seen him yet" 

1 ^' 5)"***® ^^^^ ^*^** demur.'y towards the table- 
cloth^ Flora began to giggle, and was sternly admonished 
by E^th not to be a little fool, upon which Roger 
foUowed up his advantage. « So, mother. I see from tiie 
way you take this question that the terror of St. Olaves 
has been at it again." 

" Roger 1 • 

" It's no use looking shocked. Why don't you dismiss 
him if you feel like that about him ? '^ 

" You know quite weU I can't send him away." said Mrs 
Huncote. "evenif ...» j'. « «i«. 

"Every nice girl loves a coachman." ra sang sofUv. 
Even Elspeth laughed. ^ ' 

-And who^s the lady? Or rather, who was the lady 
yesterday ? For there's no knowing who it is tOKiay I " 

. T "".^T ' ^°"'* '°*°^'" ^^ M«- Huncote, very staid, 
irunch doesn't come to me with his stories " 

tJ*^''\i!"'**^?^ ^^S'" "^ ^^' "but he goes to 
iJetty. the only woman in the world he can treat as a 
confidant because she happens to be sixty-two. and she 
comw to you. and so you do know, and you may as weU 
tell Roger, because what you won't tell him Betty tells 
■ M * T^®"' ^ ^*^"'* ^y '^^^' ^^ she tells me." 
i h.r^' Huncote tried to look severe, grew resigned, then 
ihumorously paretic. "What am I to do ^th t^ 
children. Roger? They do grow up so." 

At that moment Roger, who had as a way out plunged 
!w !u "■ «^^^^an's amorous adventures, suddenlyfelt 
•* i ^V?P'^ '^""^^ "°* ^ ^*^^<^"ssed before Flora, even 

«T . ^^ ™^y *^*'^' ^* she shouldn't seem to " 

♦hJ^? ^'*.:^^ °" ^^^^ **b^« Mre- Huncote summed up 
hhe suuation^^ "No I couldn't dismiss Trunch reaUy^ 

feth.^" "^^ me thirteen yeare. and he was with yo^ 
fate ten years before that. One must make aUowanas, 



6ai 



THE STRANGERS* WEDDING 



Huncote felt a warm little rash of a£kcti<Mi as he looked 
at his iMretty mother, still young somehow though fifty- 
one, in her funny semi-arty, semi-messy clothes, with her 
fair and grey untidy but pretty hair, and her general like- 
ness to a hollyhock after a shower. Besides, his own 
expedient for getting rid of an inconvenient topic was 
used against Um ; his mother began to discuss " The 
Golden Bowl," and grew rather eloquent as to the merits 
of Mr. Henry James. He was her favourite author, and 
she loved him best in his later moods. She forgave him 
"Roderick Hudson," and the other intelligible portions 
of his works, because one had to make allowances for 
youth, and even Mr. Henry James must have been young 
some time. For a while Roger and his mother discussed 
Henry James with a little assistanc? from Elspeth, who 
frankly hated him, while Flora said nothing, and played 
" He loves me, he loves me not," with the salted almonds. 
At last she could bear it no more, and, using a gap in the 
conversation, thrust in the dull subject of the dull 
autumn. 

"No more tennis," she sighed, "and uninteresting 
tea-parties in drawing-rooms instead of in gardens, and no 
dances for another month or two 1 I wish I could shoot." 
She was rallied for a while, reminded that she could not 
throw a cricket ball. She looked very jxctty and muti- 
nous, but the conversation tailed of! until at last the three 
women 'left Roger alone for five minutes with the port 
decanter, so that it should not be said that the isolation 
of the male after dinner had not been jKud its traditional 
tribute. For a few moments Huncote thought of this 
ocmversation. j 

Heavens I How awkward i« was. They had nibbled 
at the Settlement and chaffed about it ; they had nibbled 
at that n(»sense about their coachman who, at the age 
of forty-eight, had more love afiEairs in a mcmth than 
Huncote had had in his whde life ; and even the discoarioa 
oo Henry James had tailed ofi on side issues, on silly little 



THE PEACE OF ST. OLAVES 63 

^'S^U^^hli*:^*^*^ line. It was as 

from being simple^th^ 15^ *"^ P^^^ted them 
believe tha?i„TWtTfta?heh«H''- ^"^^ they really 
•niat would mate a dift^^ ^ ^"* *"*° ^ ^««* ? 
mortals talkSTto ^f^' !' J*"^ ' *^«y ^«ld be 

"Ridiculo^rLsuZed^?*^.^" l^' ^*^«' ^rid- 
into the drawing^^"*^ "P* ^^^ **»« ^^' and went 

tai^^ -"l^iT*- ^^^y- *^- H»n«>te «t at the secr« 
laire, just finishmg off a letter » o. ^uT^ f •. , . ^^" 

always finishing off a I^h J ['•, ^.***® P"' '* ^^e was 
doin^of peoSe ?n St r? ^' ''^^^ ^^P**^ ^^Jked of the 
know^and'l^^^l'risS^^ Sf ^^ "1;^ '^ ^'^ -' 
and the bunny h^ wS h J • ^'^"^ *^' *"^^^y *™t 
was only a little I«£r if ^ ^"** *=°"»« *<> town. It 
said steUs fha^4t^^^^^^^^ *^.K°'^°^^' M"- Huncote 

to Ud. that so^li^td stc^ -V^^l^i:- ^''" 
fro^^^thT^J-;-^ -^^^^^^^^ .'rout Off 

where Afo. H^coTe dI^^^^iL. ^^^'^ this was a bed 
were the ten^S!l^i!?!? Shakespeare flowers. Beyond 

secret anrd^gS^lt'n^'^'"' "'^^^ ^"'^^^ « ««t 
«naU boy had «Sfn ?i" f*^**" ^^«« Roger as a 

I the paths t^^^„u'*f "• ^ » arm, walked along 
what'Jhey wt^yg''*?^^^?^-* '^^^ much^ 
cold, and a brilHanV^f " P^**' ^*^ "^'-^er warm nor 

shruCiiitlS ■ r^"^„«»« 8?-vel silvery and Z 
and then, and Tse^^ ^^ ""* "^'^^ ** ^ «^«Pt now 
notes of ; two^tV^^ ™yj» "^ ^^' » '«^ 

" Roger - said S« w . "^ ^**" * P»ano. 
Ui,r« ♦w' . *^- Huncote, suddenlv • m* ««« - x 
^"^r^^y^n'v* chosen the right thi^A "* ^^^ ^"^^ 
. J thmk so, mother." ^ 

If you reaUy think that, it's aU right Yon lm««, i 



64 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 






" Dear little mother," said Huncote, andsoueesedherarm. 

" Only," Mrs. Huncote went on, " I want you to be sure. 
You will be sure by-and-by, and I want you to promise me 
something." 

" What is it ? " 

" I want you to promise me not to go on if at any time 
you feel jrou don't want to. I mean, if you find you've 
made a mistake, that your heart isn't in the work . . . 
Roger dear, you won't do anything silly like that, will 
you? If you find you've made a iiustake, you won't 
be proud and go on when you ought to give it up ? " 

" That's all right, mother," said Roger, rather gruffly. 

He thought he: sweet and delicate. She disapi»x)ved of 
what he was doing, and very sweetly hinted that though 
she disapproved he might be right ; she was his mother, 
and whether he did right or wrong, she was going to try to 
prevent him from making himself unhappy. 

" Yes," he said, more assured now, " I do feel I've done 
the right thing. I don't fancy anything else either. I 
don't want to be a soldier, and I shouldn't do any good at 
the Bar, I don't talk well enough. Besides . . . 
oh, mother, if you could see the things I've been seeing 
not only this week but before, the horrible poverty and 
the dirt, all sorts of things which make you want to go out 
and stop them." 

" Yes, I know," said Mrs. Huncote, a little shaken by his 
earnestness, " I know, Roger. Of course, one does what 
one can with charity and all that, and I know it isn't much. 
Sometimes I feel we ought to let the poor alone a little. 
There are lots of horrid things in the world which we have 
to let alone." 

" Tmnch," said Roger, suddenly mocking. 

" Don't be silly, Roger, I can't send him away. It's not 
only that I'm sentimental because he's been with the 
fainily so long, bat in these days . . . one gets so 
mixed up about sex problems with the things one hears 
and rea^." 



IHE PEACE OF ST. OLAVES «. 

Roger smiled in the Harirn<>.<, ^ 
She was ct^Zt^r^^^'T^'r'^^^' 
mcoherence. He loved the waTfrf^K*?^ ^^ her 
dispensed charity while ^LZ7 • r^*^ ^^ doubtfully 
told her that clLwat^g,r'^^P^PWets which 
And thi3 Trunch. th^ aC?^^%^^^ ?<^ ««eved. 
ended now and then by her soSw^ ?^?°^^ ^^ ^^<* 
or remonstrating with Trni^^^^,? mfunated mother, 
plea that the giri « come S ^S^ *1!"^ ^°«t«d by his 
a leaf upon the wind, and, LTleaf, ^ce^.""^"^^ ^ 

§4 
to e^^on'-S^^^ ^P«*. a. a..„t . ^ 

■t sa«d hto exph.aU^'^'Wr^d^ b««« 
years at Gab's bmiwK* - *® ** done. But three 

broke the contiT^tf tl^'LJT^^^^^ hischur^S^ 
j:f tching him from ot^ thf "Si, "' ^^ MrslSicote 
Ebpeth too; they w^rall w.*^* '^v'' ^^ ^o^* and 
half-humoro^sly, ^iS ^nt "^^ > = ^re. HuncS« 
rigid and rather^^ucu?^t ^al .'"^'^vous, Els^ 
lum too, with a com^^te^,'^.'^:^ ^^^ote yratS^ 
to church." said the i^er Hunt'te ^a^ ^T' "^^ ««^ 
th«»k you're churchy beca,^ v.;. ^^^^^ '^ y*»" ^^^ theyS 
and so you'd better not^rTIL^ '® "" *h« Settlement 
reaUy churchy, in you l 1>^"*' *^°"«^ ^"^^^ is^'t' 

„ R^ht oh I When do we^a^ ? «** ^' *^ "«* ^^1 •' 
^^^^.ammute.»saidElsi«th. « Let me finish a note, will 

Els'^hTnot*'; t"^^^ - ««a«tte; he knew 

Sony I can't c<^me Y«'^/^T^*''*^*°- "Dear— 
e- Yrs. A reaction, no doubt, against' 



w 



66 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 






her mother's habit of abundant correspondence with 
everybody she had ever met. As Elspeth wrote Mrs. 
Huncote looked at her, stimulated by this person in the 
act of writing, and vaguely wondered whether she would 
have time before leaving for church to start that letter 
to Mabel. She knew she would not, but she liked to play 
with the idea. 

• Flora," she said, " I wish you'd find me the Post Office 
Guide ; I want to be quite sure when the mail leaves for 
Honolulu." 

Flora gave her the book with a little smile. She knew 
qu'te well that her mother knew the date of the mail, had 
known it for weeks. But still, she treated the Post Office 
Guide, her mother's Kbie, with half respect. 

In another few minutes, both in brown tweeds, both 
carrying sticks, brother and skter stepped out of St. Olaves 
at the smart heel-and-toe trot that Elspeth called walking. 
It was rather cold, and the fresh air stung a little red into 
Elspeth's pale cheeks. As soon as they had turned off the 
High Street, by the " Red Lion," and passed through the dairy 
and the grounds of the home farm (now a laundry), they were 
in the country. For some time they did not speak ; there 
was something delicious in the fresh, hard morning, and the 
wet scent of dead leaves that seemed so old. It was not 
winter yet, and the year sick to death, but rather the pro- 
test of summer holding up to St. Martin suppliant hands. 
And the wind, buoyant as a rosy sailor, urged them on. 
As they went down the path, deep-rutted by the carts, 
they coiild see the valley of the Char grow, opening like a 
pale green leafy cup, and slowly rising in the south towards 
its guard of scattered pine trees, between which glowed the 
blue pearl of the sky. An exhilaration was in Huncote. 
as if he had escaped something. And the wonder of it 
was that Elspeth felt it too. 

" Better than church," she said, with quick intuition. 

He laughed, fltmg her a glad look. Here was Elspeth, the 
compamoa, again, with her shoving irony so like a 



THE PEACE OF ST. OLAVES g. 

That was all rot wasn't ut r ' 

sw. tat. so far « I gathTS JS ">" '?>'**^ <*»- 

Hspeth laughed. " Yoo tauTja.. __ „ 
, Hunoote paused for . nl™l_!^^"™ Hottentots I" 
towar* the'^tta XZTlj!?, »»^ ""h U. sui 
serpent, about the niL.^5' ^^ " * ""raWic grev 

>Jy got half the noble satiS" ^ •? • ."»y = «'« 
M- I haven't been uJi^^^?J^* I" nobb 
K see what r« a»n^y ' '^""?- 1™* » you ««Jd 

■^'"^'""•-'^^•^"l-.-Elsp.thh.t^. 

»^"^t^^'^ "drunkenness or thieving 
^<lly taow whethS i^ S?'?*'- "*<*«iy. •! 
ftnde, a sort of conti^u<Sl.?fc/^ ^ »'. an 
f there doesn't senn .-iJ^ ""*'• """l no wonder 

H-^<^ that the nS^ ^,»S ^^- Mc^ 



68 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



of that sort I mean, the heavier they lie on your stomach. 
It's materialism, that's what it is." 

" Everything's material," said Elspeth. 

"I know what you mean. In a way you're right. 
The emotion you get out of a steak-and-lddney pie is an 
emotion jiist like the one you get out of a Quentin 
Matsys. But there's a difference of grade. If you like 
to stay in the material field there's the difEerenoe between 
the »lk purse and the sow's ear. Down there, in St. 
Panwich, it's sow's ears all the time. We want to wake 
them up to the silk purse." 

Elspeth laughed. 

"I see what you mean. Besides, I know. I've seen 
your little fvospectuses : dances and pretty words» and 
good pictures, and the Hundred Best Books." 

"Hang it all!" said Huncote. a little exasperated, 
"isn't it better than fool words and the hundred worst 
murder triab?" 

Elspeth shut her month rather tight, and for a minute 
or two they stepped smartly across the meadows and the 
bridge, known as Crumble Bridge, because the boundary 
line of a parish ran through the middle (tf it. and one 
parish woi^ not repair its halt 

"I don't agree with you," she said, "which doesn't 
mean that I agree. At tiie bottom I disagree very haid. 
I'm no democrat. The people want ruling, kindly but 
firmly, like horses. I'll refuse no horse a feed of oats, 
but I'll refuse him an over-feed." 

"It's an under-feed you give them in St. F^wich," 
said Huncote in a voice whid^ surprised him. so bitter 
was it and so k>w-pitched. " Still, it's their business with 
their unions and all that to put that sort of thing right. 
What we've e^>t to do in the Settlement is to try and 
mate than decent, keep clean, use decent English, leam 
8«x;ething that they don't get out of tl» papeis. so that 
when they do orane to the well-spread board they may 
not behave like pigs at a trough." 



I , 



THE PEACE OF ST. OLAVES (jg 

had been Bto tl^^^'T* -5^ *°^' '^'^ ""^fl^cted. 
had.) He y^mtnT^^X'^ 7^' ^ °<^^ 
nothing without thTSvicT^Tt^^c^* '^l'^^ do 
thing would be aU ridit F«r - i '^ •' ^^'^ *^ •^rv- 
jpeak. not. indeS. 4 a ^ o^ ^ they did not 
having gained the c^t of^hT^ °u *° '«^' ^' 

lilce^'welltrS;^^,^,^-; '^ ^^th. -I feel 

her ruddy health, teS^E^nT^' ^ <=»^ ot 
as she hated what sti^TZ^ "^ "sponsible, 
throwing balls atout LaSrli "^^ «»centration of 
hc^neTld her sSe ^ t?^^'^i.*^™!.*°'^ 
chievous impulse flash to Wo^^^ ^' *"^ * ™s. 

Trunch. and rt oaS«d to £L ^f p?'' ^'^^ ^^ 
[a skeleton. ^^ to him that Ekpeth. too, had 

^s'Erb? "he asked, slrilfally. 
.^^s^-^metogetlTSSrsharpfy. 
Huncote looked at l»r «»««».. 

"Btake, still veiy litaii iJTr^" ' ""^ I"™ "ade a 
ou think.- ^^ ^* "' ""^ "»«« to do Witt it than 

yt ^ *> '-^ «»« Huncot. ««i.g,y ^ ^^ 

•I>o.'t U «tty," h, „M. ^ ^ ^ ^ _^ ^^ 



90 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

teasing her. "Let me see," he said, "let's review the 
facts. The young man known as 'Erb, aged 19, com- 
mitted . . . adultery, that's the word, Elspeth, isn't 
it. in St. CMaves ? with . . . I've forgotten her name, 
who was a pearl of innocence, wasn't she ? " 

" Oh, don't talk nonsense I " 

" And yon solemnly warned him, didn't you ? that he'd 
have to marry her, and be refused. And you told his 
employer to make him, and he ran pway to Londmi, 
let's hope to St. Panwich." Ekpeth became statuesque 
in rigidity. "And I've just heard that this unfortunate 
victim was not omUty married, but more than married, 
and frequently married. Oh, Elspeth, is this true ? " 

Ifis sister seemed about to nudce a vicious reply, then 
realised that he was only teasing her. 

" I've half forgotten it," she said, " but still how could 
I know ? It's geiwrally the man's fault, isn't it ? ' 

Hunoote did not reply ; he was still young enough to 
believe it was generally the man's fault, and that upset 
his argument. 

" WeU," he said, " I hardly know." 

But aheady Elspeth was on him, hitting him again 
and again, like a skilled boxer who has seen his adversary 
falter, and rains Mows on him so as to finish him. 

" Of course, it is the man's fault. What do I care who 
she was or what she was ? as if that made any dilEerence I 
as if he wasn't responsible for his own share of insult, 
whether he was the first or the last. They brought up 
that girl in ignorance, and they brought him up in know- 
ledge. D'you call that &ur? D'you call that an even 
match? And if it's an even match, who suffers. 111 
ask yon ? "Erb goes away to brag of what he has done, 
and she stays behind to weep for it. Why, even if she 
has done wrong, she pays the price, and he gets the credit ; 
aomelxxfy ought to serve "Erb out, so as to make the 
balance fair." 

This was what he liked in Elspeth : her viruknoe. her 



THE PEACE OF ST. OLAVES ft 

pognadous energy, her hot championship of unworthy 
owes : she made him feel so reasonable, as if his intellert 
were Wtt his hair, nicely parted in the middle. So more 
temperately he tried to discuss the 'Erb case, but thev 
had not done with it when at last they entered the High 
Street from the other end. Elspeth had been too puWfc. 
jmted. and she had been laughed at because it is so 
difficult to be public-spirited and ladylike, ^he was still 
very angry in the High Street, and it was quite a reUef 
to come across Flora, who had lagged behind her mother 
aftCT church, ostensibly to buy stamps at the tobac- 
comsts. Flora looked charming in a rather too vivid 
blue coat and skirt, with her fair hair pushed out under a 
large black hat. She chattered to Huncote. having at 
^ read m Ebpeth's eye a fury not unfamiliar : the 
rector was getting stouter, it seemed, and, happy thought 
his sermons shortened with his breath. Also. Lady Alpertal 
^ a visitor staying with her. who looked like a soldier, 
and, would you beheve it Elspeth? the Belhusgirbhav^ 
come back all dressed alike; they always were two or 
three years behmd the fashion, but I didn't think it was 
toll And would Roger mind going into the tobacconist's 
Tarn ^ ^^^^^ mightn't know it was only 

.J^^ *^"^** *^® agreeable, pretty chatter of the 
agreeaWe. pretty voice Elspeth remained fiercely close 
as If offended, and Huncote was glad when that after' 

^*^L^T; *"" \^* .^"^^ ^^^""^ P^«* °^ showing him 
IZ7 * *°*T' *°^^ ^ *** ^^' »^d^oo«- He lit her 
chatter for a long tune as she flittered about. smaU and 

fl!»i' I!!*, ' Jf y- ** °"® ^**c^^ a butterfly over a 
flower-bed. Flora's bedroom always amu^d Wm 
because it was always so entirely Flor^ In a sense she 
was too pretty for the setting which she could conceive ; 
fo^i fi!""'^ T" G««na^y would have suited he^ 
SkL- K "''^®'* eyebrows over the half-naughty, 
half-childish grey eyes, the gay mouth and the n<Z 



7* 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



i 



small, impertinent, that invited together tolerance and 
censure. Roger always made her a little consdoos of 
personal disorder, and so while she talked she tried to 
collect the many letters which lay about her writing-pad. 
He smiled as he watched her, for he knew that among 
them were many tiny little compromising missives. 
Indeed, he had to chaff her. 

" Is that one from Cuthbert ? " he asked. " Or is his 
name Gerald ? Sorry, but I get lost among your 
romances. Flora, so don't be ofiended if it happens to 
be Anthony." 

She pretended to pout angrily, but she was delighted. 

" Don't be ridiculous, Roger ; you talk as if I'd a 
haremi" 

" Haven't you ? Now let me see, let's go back into 
ancient history." 

" Roger I ' cried Fk>ra, half dismayed, " don't do that, 
it would . . .• 

" It would take too long." 

" You rude man I You seem to forget I'm only twenty." 

* And experienced. There were four letters for you, 
Fkna, this morning, and only one of them in a feminine 
hand." 

" All bills," said Flora wearily. 

" Not even one from Sawbones Junior ? " asked 
Huncote. 

Flora flushed. She had gone too far in her tiny 
intrigues. It was all very well exchanging countless 
letters with most of Roger's friends, and being more or 
less engaged to half her dancing partners, but Sawbones 
Junior, in other words the doctor's son, not favoured 
at the house, was a grievance. She did not care for the 
doctor's son . . . well, he was rather nice . . . 
but she might if they went on worrying her about him, 
and that would be quite dreadful, she felt, lor it would 
stop all the fun. So she said, very stately : 

" I haven't seen him for a long time. One never does 



THE PEACE OF ST. OLAVES ^ 

•«« iiiybody here. Roger.- the added, woefully -There', 
•imply nothing to do." "wwuny . lueres 

!•«!!!"'* ^^"^' ^^^ Hnncote. "Why. whenever 
I m down yon nem seem to have a minute whatSS 
tennw, croquet, and acrostic teas I • "* 

" ^ ^^J^.?^' *^*^^y. " that's only pasrin^ 
time away that's not what I c u havin/ f^ 
B. I had thooffht . . - qk- -*-.__^/^*. . * "^ 



the 



She stopped and loojc^d 



time. I had thought 
melancholic. 

"GotothebwIUkethis.- 

sillVn^lL?^^ r"'r gone to the bad or anything 
s>Hy Uke that ; only the other men I know i 

XuT^ tr^^^' ^^^^ : •. 

- or-^S^p been about town. aU that sort of thi^.- 
♦n 1, ' 1.^ ?^' ' "wfcratand. You mean I^t 

wtuous. where you could have come to i^ now ^S 

j:;^'up^;\: t's-r - ''- ^^^ ^^^« «' ^^ -^ 

her^ol ^i""** *"'''* ' '^" bad a sense of humour but 

Yes. ,he said raptly. " wouldn't it have beTloWlv ? • 
Huncote had to laueh at th^ «r-^„ -7 -^ ^ ' 
• Never min/i - 1.1 -j « P"*ty seriousness, 
then nTlf ' ^^^'*• yo" "»"st come up now and 
then all the swne and stay with me in Clare Stawt^ 
Flora looked at him dubiously. ** 

EoJ^^rrd,;^^,,^' ^^" -« - they dreadfully 
I can't tell you yet." said Hnncoti^ « k«* t-m • 

*a visit gUd«, ha^n ^cTLTdT' °' **" ™^' 



74 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



I! 



r 

'f 

I 



' Don't be absurd i " Still she smiled and looked 
pleased as if the word " London " cheered her up. Flora 
hated St. Olaves, and apart from her minor amorous 
correspondence lived only for those six weeks in the 
season which she, with her mother and Elspeth, passed 
every 3rear at Black's Hotel. She did what she could : 
she collected china pigs, scores of them, on her mantel- 
piece ; she filed all her theatre .programmes, which she 
read on rainy days, in a large untidy drawer with many 
photographs, broken fans, and the ribbons from her 
underclothes, which she seldom threw away because 
somehow she liked a mess. 

Just before he left the room Huncote went up to his 
sister, took in ^s hand the pointed chin, and looked at 
her iot a moment, humorously, compassionately, and a 
tittle disdainfully. She looked at him with a puckering 
smile on her lips and a rather arch look in her eyes, as 
if she had to fUrt even with her brother. And when he 
kissed her quickly on her plump, round cheek she laughed 
and murmured : 

" You really will let me come and stay, won't you ? " 

§5 
Huncote was thinking of all of them the next day as he 
went back to town. They blended together into a sort 
of patchwork quilt of family emotions : his mother's 
untidy, half-humorous charm, Elspeth's narrowness, and 
Flora's fluffy preoccupations ; all these things seemed 
to correspond so ill with the life he' was leading and 
wanted to lead. He was like a kitten that has escaped 
for a few days from its basket into the world and judges 
its mother. Most marked was this attitude when he was 
in the Settlement itself. He returned there, it seemed, 
as directly as a pigeon, as if, indeed, it were home ; 
he just took time to drop his bag in his frowsty rooms, 
for, of course, the landlady had kept the windows shut 
during the week-end ; then he was in the St. Panwich 



THE PEACE OF ST. OLAVES 75 

^d'^U^'V^ *^ ^<»™« o« their way to 
ir««3 K .^^**' * ~™«f o' *h« asphalted plav- 

STh* Ht J°?l'* ^*" *^^ ^^^« Street school chilSen 
and ^ lAed the clatter of their little hobnaUed bo^te 

.^?ro? *"T "^P*""^ ^^^^ ^^' with its big white 
staircase so clean, and the long white-painted corridor 
that seemed monastic, with offices that might havT^n 
^Usecture rooms where the chapter sSd haJ^ ^" 

pnasis on the Lay." an agnostic cloister. There was 

it Se^lrS^r^ ^^"* '^^ constitution. aS L^S 
Ihe H.r!^ Vigorously against the theistic idea that 
^ J^^ r'* J"" y *°'"^^*^' *n<i then had to te 
^^^s^Ti^^^'^'^ ""y ^^^«y ^^ °th«r denoS^n^ 

tTi^^^eSln T'^'^'^'*'^' *^" ^^"^ Catholic and 
tne ftesbytenan figurmg like soda and sulphuric acid to 
neutrahse each other. It was assumed tKe r«J^? 
rnn^or"*"" "^"'^ ^' '' -* beneficial. at^S:f: 

he'J^^^S^^wln'rrf hi t^'T"^" 5"^^^' -^^h 
wouldnroLw I ] "® ^^ understood everything he 

tZ^ the ffir fr "°*^"S). he wouldfw Ln 
Sk iits^l'"*' ^'t ™o«t organisations, expressed 

theo^^rrulde"d^^man':^^^^^^^ 

and like W,„.«[ • , ^"^ ^''^^ «y*»' «ther closest 

mquiri^ n^ ^^ * j!"«^ ""*^" sharpness of hb 
sa2ow 'heeTfrom whir^^r*"'' **^' ^ *^« 

beard that he sh^^ s^ clITL m"^.**"?* "**=^ 
uavcu SO Close as to make them look 




I 

I 
I 



I 



7« THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

green. In those days he intended to take ordeis, and 
why he never took orders, why he failed even to get a 
pass, why he was not poshed further on the clerical 
path, nobody knew. Pbssibly he had rebelled, for he 
had money, though very little ; he had a hundred a 
year of his own ; in fact, he had been bom with an electro- 
plated spoon in his mouth. Or very hkely the Settle- 
ment had appealed to him because it satisfied some inner 
need for association with something organised. Chur- 
ton respec-ed organisation, and had automatically 
becMne the servant of an organisation. It was open to 
question whether he would not have served equally well 
the Free Trade Union or the Tariff Reform League : 
one could imagine him faithful to any grouping, and 
indeed in any attitude save alone. 

When Huncote came in Churton was at the telephone, 
the end of his long nose resting on the receiver. Hun- 
cote listened respectfully, looking at little things in the 
important office: files, account-books, scales and 
punches, and the largest stone bottle of ink he had ever 
seen. Churton had given him a friendly nod, but he 
tooked worried. 

" I haven't made it clear," he telephoned worriedly. 
" Please let me explain again, it's my fault. " There was 
a pause during which the person at the other end pre- 
vented him from explaining. * No. no," cried Churton 
rather desperately, " it's against the constitution of the 
Settlement ; we can't allow any intrusion. ... Oh I 
I didn't mean to put it like that, only I do want to make 
It clear that ... our propaganda is not reMgious. 
Oh. A pause. "Then really I'm very sorry." Pause 
" Certainly not " (rather add this), " you've no right to 
say such a thing." There was another pause, and then 
the receiver came down rather sharply. 

" Oh. dear I Oh. dear ! " said Churton. " this sort ol 
thing happens every other day." 
" What is it ? " asked Huncote. sympathetically. 



aM/C 



IHE PEACE OF ST. OLAVES 

Irishmen say if I i-t *iu. rt -^^ '^'^' ^<>"^<I our 
loose on tlLi ? vL^^r P^*' -' ^^^^^ 

wish Id «o«e into ^^t^\S^:tjSr''^' 
reaUy religious lab«L J™* °®°™'\«on»ething with a 

everybody else is Sanm^^ wl''^" y°» *«• '^^ 
kindly laymen, the^ tWn^^K? *^ P**^***»"' being 
that its ^who^^S^"«^»««^ *« '•^PPO* iS 
b«wd of salvation " ^^^ ^'^'^ we have no special 

thate^,ministiti^t3^^"r^- You mean 
of some kind. Tb^^^Sr^. ™"** ^^ » religion 
goodwill, can they ?^ ^***''^ undenominatiauU 

will I'll begin to ^L^" *^ >^ '*'» Christian goo^ 

done he n.tumed to Hu^JSJ^', JJ^, Churton had 
occupied air. as if ooa.^^'^^Z^^y ^^ ^ 
JheoJogical. They hadtou^of!^ ^ "^^ the 
Huncote was to pl^tC Si* Sl~"**^ ** which 
find the pn^numTieX cSlin^^"* f^"^"* ""« 
tect was waiting wiS ^^^ /""^^ *^t the archi- 

When ChurtonlSlhT^i^^^^ And 

»«»mpanist so that Hunco^^ST *"^ *^ ««« of the 
Peoes he WDuW^Ly ^ ^l'''!?lf ^*^ ^ what 
I«y. there was another telephone call 



I 



7« 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



Huncote's business was done, but he stayed some minutes 
in the office, every minute more admiring, for Churtun 
seemed to have well in hand the reins of his organisation. 
People rang him up to ask at what time things happened, 
and he knew ; he signed a number of cheques which the 
cashier laid before him, at the same time briskly discussing 
with the cook what substitute they shculd have that night 
for shrimp paste, as that had been vetoed by the Kitchen 
Committee <m the ground of expense. He was marvellous, 
and every moment Huncote grew more humble. 

Humility was still upon him a little later when lunching 
at Prince's with a man who had come down at the same 
time as he did, and the man's sister and mother. Huncote 
ought to have i^oticed the mat-whiteness of the girl and the 
purjde shadows that made her eyes seem deep, so long 
were the curling eyelashes, but he was too excited by the 
vigour and capacity of the Settlement to which he had given 
himself. He knew he was being a bore, and yet he had to 
talk about it, about their programme, their building, and 
their hopes. They laughed at him, thought him so young 
and so earnest ; they liked him, they were vaguely amused 
and yet vaguely bored. But he hardly noticed, and even a 
little later, when he stood in Piccadilly Circas and saw 
crawling towards him the patchy colour of the motor 
'buses like an undulating harlequin's robe, he was still 
in the thraU of this big living thing, the Settlement, which, 
his humour gone, he half-believed would regenerate the 
wcvld. 

That night the concert strengthened "his enthusiasm ; 
though it was very like any other concert, it was the one 
he would always remember just because it was his first. 
He had a large mixed audience in the big lecttue room ; 
many women, a fair number of men, a rather rowdy, boot- 
scraping audience, an audience that grew more cheerful 
as time went on and clapped each piece with perfect 
impartiality and some violence. It was with a beating 
heart that Huncote played his two pieces, carefully selected 



TOE PEACE OF ST. OlAVES „ 

«™»», for he iJl X5^?' * !^"*- He was not 

but he ««, most f^'^haJt s^t'Xl'". ""^"^ 
playing, when he was WcT! • ^ ^^®" ^« was not 

I^lSS" one t£ng^ Sw T£ ^^^ -th these 
quite violently, all of tST' h^ rS* ?^' "^<^ *^n» 
their bonnets: the men who tr^t.^ ""^^ ^^"^ » 
^ as much as the^^n who '^ ^"^"^ ^S^* ^he back 
n>w (where the^ ^d^t t T '^'°^°" ^ ^^e fix«t 

he liked the ab^ceofXd^Sltflt ^1™** <>' *« 
address and no coUec««n • ^u ^^ °^ ' ^^ was no 

waU. unless rqS^^rjrom'^ T" *'" *^^ "P°» *^ 
WiUiam Moms ^i^^^sS^ aTS^ TAr^' ^" 
speech and the votes 7i tWw • I ^?* ^ chairman's 
Ilje seconder of Se vote ^T^lT "^T" "^^ '^^'' 
did make one slightly uiiortu,^^ ^ ^ cfetByman. who 
of gratitude, forhe SSTStf^"? ?S " '^ expressions 
former. . but apparentiv^hf ^ * ^^^ ^y°nd the per- 

and coffee were-erved in th- *^ *^^ "*"**rt and tea 
determined to U^y ""he tLff^"^. behind. He was 

i^lutely talked toTw; of t^n^T".^ *° ^^P -^ he 
the girls who sat in Znt t f^' /h' ^' ^^ ^^ <>* 
each other and looked a^' Si ^d^t^T^' ""1""^ 
embarrassed him a Utile lisT,f ?i, ^^'^- ^^e men 
the smells of their tr^i^L^^^S:;^'' "^? ^^^^^ 
jnixed with sweat ; one man^L L!^^"^ ,f ^ ™«tal 
Huncote innocentiy thought he hS' , ?^ °*^^' ^^om 
m reahty picked iL ,^1^'^ P;^^ ^"t who had 
very short, extremely fat and «^ i?^' ^"^ ^^"^^y was 
had erected a cr.p whiS wZl T ^^ "*'"^' ^^ head 
six; he maintained r^^nT^ iSa*"^ * ^»ttle boy of 
which never moved frTm^^i^l^' ^f *° "^ ^3^ 
was a pity, as Beesby h^ a^•^^2.^ ^7, i^sdn^t^, which 
^vance. «. eld4 so. S^^ J)^- ^ -P^ 



I 






80 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



of which he was acquitted after two months' pievrative 
detentioo. During that time his tools were kept at the 
police station. On the day he came out young Beesby, 
forgetting all about his tools, celebrated the occasion by 
getting so drunk that he was sentenced to fourteen days 
or a fine of two pounds. Then he remembered his tools. 

" So wot did 'e do. sir ? 'E said to the beak. ' Wot abaht 
me tools ? ' he said. • You gi' me back Jie tools and I giv 
yer yer two pouns.' An' wot d'yer think the beak said ? 
• Yon giv me me two pouns first.' When 'e come out o' 
quod the tools was rusted, dme ioe' Beesby's eyes grew 
as keen as driUs. He aigued his son's case, then the beak's 
case. He became pathetic : " I arsk yer, sir, d'yer call it 
fair?" 

Huncote got -ry involved in this conversation, im he 
could not disu^ t whether the tools had been accepted 
as security by he rdentless beak. Moreover, Beesby 
had not the sjightest intention of telling the story except in 
the way he chose aaid it went on intenninaWy ; it went 
on as to what tk «ak had said and what that dirty tyke, 
the sergeant, had i^aid, and what young Beesby had said 
(and him not accountable after going on the boott). Huncote 
found himself growing quite hoi as the Beesby drama slowly 
extended, qualified, parenthetic, reminiscent, discursive, 
into a full account of the accident to Beesby's uncle' 
John when he tried to get a bath up the stairs. Huncote 
was not yet used to talking to the class that he wanted 
to raise. Still he had to talk to B«sby ; everybody at 
the Settlement had to listen to the Beesby story once 
(and if not careful more often). The evening wore on; 
he talked to many other people, to young men who 
were aggressively friendly and who nearly dug him in the 
waistcoat to show him that this was democracy and they 
were all pals, also to yotaig men who called him " sir " and 
grew very hot abtm the ears when he looked at them, 
because they could mrt realise that this was democracy 
and they were all pals. There were women too who flitted 



THE PEACE OF ST. OLAVES fa 

^-^pX' ':iril^rt^^'^ ^^' -- little 

thought, whom he U^to^ S?^^^^ i^^*''^*^ »» 
the pickle factory r^d hTr ^I^t^'^'^ ?* ^'^ ^"^ 
vaguely ironic. ' ^°°^"S «ther lost and 

'-"r^ J^'S te*^""" °'»f y*^y individually. b„t 

ending in aT^ 'a^d ^ 1^ 'l?^ '°^ *" * ™^ 
teacups and the dhk ^^T^"^^ "^'^ '^ «ttle of 
sion of evemhine Lnl^Jfl V^^*'' ~"''««<1 impres- 

Clare Street and his S " hJ^ "u ** ^^* 1^« '^g^ned 
St. Lawrence, he wS^i?o^/^n^ ^^'^'^ ^^ve intSSted 
satisfaction : he hlTbSnmT' ""''^ "^ ^^ 
had found them ^ ^ *** *^ ?«>'• and ahnost 



6 



'm;,mm^m^!^^^. 



I 



CHAPTER THE FOURTH 

UTOPU 

Two months had elapsed. It was January. By turning 
his head a little Huncotc could see through the window 
the light fall of snow which had suddenly etherealised the 
grim little houses in the side street. Here was silence 
absolute, as if indaed this were the Arctic, and in the St. 
Panwich High Street the rising and falling rumble of the 
trams. For a time he watched the lost snowflalces falling 
and thought, with a half smile, of Blake, of the mystic 
swans in the far blue shaking their fleecy wings. He was 
not unhappy in the melancholic day. for was he not here, 
all alone, in a bright office ? a Helper ? Established ? Was 
he not performing a function ? Would there not be a 
hitch in the social machine for a second perhaps, but still 
a second, if he were to disappear ? He.bit his pen, push- 
ing aside the exceedingly greasy testimonials which lay 
before him, as if the silent snow made him reflective. 
There had been changes in tl^se two months ; he had, it 
seemed, understood the Settlement quite well, its desire, 
by song, dance, lectare, to civilise the people, to humanise 
thrai a little by oftering them some pleasure other than 
drink and lust. Also he had given it all his time, and so 
he had risen in the b^-order mtHi now he was a sort of 
extennoa of the oi^miKd Chaim. ahk to dnw ont an 



UTOPIA - 

^"P**^. to select mnsic and >>v^ *^ ^ 

««t Mrs. Bubwith in STS t^ T*^ "^ ^^' 
now and then hired ^"^f^K^*""* ^" ^^ 
(or coffee) and sood i„*l*?^* machine of paper tea 

under his 'h^d Hr^..^*trtr^ rea^lT"^ 
fors, could, when he JedT^ '^ ^^ *^°"« *^ ^ 
^tern-sUde room, the ek^C^i^*"«.«^tary. the 
v^ous activities that flitted 3 .if^"^^ ^. the 
^ter-spideis on a pool yJhT ^ ^^ ^"^^ ^ 
bnghtening the world/ this^Ss mI T ^"^ something, 
bent down once mo,; to t^tel^ T '^^^'- ^ 
•*« and a little lav-acoIvJ! '"^^^omals; he rang a 

^ed " face of a thoZ^dlSijI^"; '" ^« ^ h^ 
wsitore. «ousand prniples." showed in one of £ 

GaJily'l^a ISig'XilS' V"^*«- P'^^ber. now Old 
to speak firS. ToS^^ ^Tu'"^ "*^* ^* ^•^^ 
\y^ entirety sober, had ^^ Sen^nT**^^' ««t 
Only." he said "one r»r!Tv ^ **^*'- 
Huncote lookei'at^'^tZ^r "»°«^ ^ork.- 
«^ sixty or so. and tW^t of T^^TT^ ' ^ <>« ">« 
master in a smaU way : TlSTr^^r?** he had been a 
who^once were comnLJnttl^^ °' '"^"^*^ «i«ct those 

ciiffiaU^o'^t^u:::^;,^^^^^^ "^' would be rather 

Jt am't as if I 'adn'* oi 
obstinatety went on. " Most ^L^ '°^'" ^^^ Partly 
does ,t aU along o' theSc ^n^^ T?"* «*^ ^nJ 
"fer respectable, I've S; i, • ' ^'' ^^ »^ways ke? 
He unwound ^ndte^v S ^^ "*^^' «>»*r- - 

Huncote suddenly?^^,, ^ ^^ of ,^ «,i^ 

the man's sobriety : he dH nTv.*^^"^ ^ ^"«I«««i 
type of artisan to ^^M^mr^,^^ ^' respSaS 
kept hm«lf sober. aboJLwv ^ ^ ^I"""^' ^ho has 
g? ^^^^ desire. ^^"L ^P^^ ■ «>ber. in S 
Old (^y had been quite oSt/^K?* °^ "»rtytdom. 
powerfully conscious of U iaTSr^ ^^ ^ wT^ 

w that Huncote thought he m^ 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 






dmnk. " But." he thought, " I mustn't let that faifloeoce 
me. I'm not hers to judge but to help." 

So. unjust and welkxieaning, he cut through the old 
man's protertations, noted what jobbing he oould do, 
originated the brilliant idea of printing drcuhus for him, 
which he oould distribute himself all round his own district, 
and then sent him away. He rang the bell for the aorfyte, 
smiling half-sorrowfully at Old Gartly, who put hb head 
in again to ask whether he would note " teetotaler " on 
the circulars. 

The morning passed on. varied and yet much the same, 
for all cases, though different in detail, were of the same 
type. He promised a seamstress to redeem her sewing* 
machine, and as she had been ill-appointed her to look 
after his linen, which after two months with the local 
laundry and the Qare Street landlady was making urgent 
charity oi some kind. He promised an enterprising youth 
to find out how he oould become president of the Institute 
of Bfining Engineers, and secured him for the night classes 
on electricity. Churton ran in for a moment, alert and 
paper-laden, dragging a portly woman who apparently 
wanted employment in the intervals of having babies, who 
happened often. But Huncote was not very successful 
here, because maternity had become an obsession in this 
case ; her statement developed by d^rees into a dirge 
on the fate of women who generally have twins and might, 
if late were unldnd, prove yet more prolific. It was queer 
and interesting, this employment business; every ca«6 
seemed to show him something more of the complications 
of a social system into which he had been thrown, without 
ever having been told why it had been created or bow. 
He was meeting mainly the unemjdoyable, those who 
were not strong enou^ and those who were too dd, and 
it occurred to him now and then to wonder why society 
wouki neither kill these peoi^e nor feed them. Use them 
it could not. except on its own terras, which nMant such 
terms as wonkl, by undercutting, slowly reduce the employ* 



i 



UTOPIA ^ 

if^:i^ *"«"« 0'S-pE^^.ic^' - ' •« 

"""••rag. and he riowed (T'i,^?^ * ' '»'«>* done 

to think it wou d bTfL^thr*^' ' """^ ''^ **«^ 
RccadiJly : he had „ot ^ ♦^ ^'' "^ *=°"^^ "o^up 

the last wect heTad^li^SL'^a*?.'^ ^"'^ <^^* 
^vorks. Toy was a^rUn ?^' °"* **' ^ ««5 

Settlement U a nJS kg Se oTL'^^J?*^ ^*^ 
boats and of gallanS^y Tn thl ^ ♦k'^^S^'P' °" ^t^am- 
^ proud of a%S?^e^!?"^ ^^^^ War. He 
•^. He was wol^^?^^ Pf "S^ at the 
references had been lost in L^^'i^J^^ "^ ^ 
was sometimes the Oro^eslS^l ^""^ ^^<* 
Huncote was half^„^ ^..^^""J^ ^'^^ 
quite know what to dTtS^h a S^'^k ^ *^ ««* 
neither German nor iZiT^ LT^.^^^ ***«»* was 

^^»' «« Miss Mskin, Md added v»h«-. 

' *"" «««a vanons aoonds 



MICROCOPY RESOLUTION TiST CHART 

(ANSI and ISO TEST CHA«T No. 2) 



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■ SO 
Urn 



yi 


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■ 4.0 


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1.25 




^^ /APPLIED IIVHGE Inc 

^S 1653 East Main Street 

S'.f Rochester, Ne» York 14609 USA 

'•SSS (716) 482 - 0300 -Phorie 

^S ("6) 288 - 5989 - Fox 






I 






86 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



that were neither dvil nor kind ; looking more than usual 
like a hysterical wet lizard, she left him the care of Toy. 
And Toy, who had large cheeks and thin legs, red hair, a 
watery eye, and something of the bedside manner of a 
fashionable doctor broadened by the barrack-room, began 
siege operations on Huncote's room. He appeared every 
morning regularly, always carrying his evening clothes in 
a brown-paper parcel, inclined to expose the scandaloiis 
way in which other soldiers had behaved in Kaffir kraals ; 
every moment he threatened to show Huncote the excel- 
lent evening clothes. In the end Himcote fo\md him a 
place in the kitchen of his club. So he liked to go down 
now and then and ask the steward how the good work was 
progressing. 

He did. But Toy was to count no more in the kitchen 
of the august club ; he was always sober in the morning, 
but not so, the dub found, at night. In an unfortunate 
fit of exaltation he had, instead of salt, poured half a 
pound of sugar into the soup. 

§2 
Huncote was almost blind to the implications of this 
work — blind to the endlessness of it. Indeed, now and 
then he was inflamed by the idea of linking material 
advantage with mental progress. These men and women 
who came in, asking him to help them, were not lost. 
They found, he thought, a sort of home in the Settlement ; 
they took with their job such culture as it could give them 
of nights. Now and then he had a vision of the St. Pan- 
wich Lay Settlement as a beneficent mother hanging over 
the people, a comforter promising them better things than 
even it gave them. But he was discovering other factors, 
exterior movements that competed with the Settlement, as 
if tbey grudged it the relief of misery because it did not 
relieve in what the other movements considered the right 
way. There seemed, espedally, to be continual friction 
between the Settlement and Uie derical organisations of 






dg- 



UTOPIA gj 

St Panwjch Once upon a time there had been a war 
between the local vicars and the intruding agnostics • that 
was over, but now and then a sort of ^riUa warfSe 
sprang up ; there were aUusions in the parish magazine to 

Xl l"^n*y, ""^ '^*^ ^^"' ^°^^*'' a few powerful 
churches had also a way of selecting rather late for their 
entertemments the same nights as those of the Settlement 
and then seduang a part of the Settlement audiences by 
gettmg their entertainments deeply intertwined with the 
coal ajid blanket clubs. There was also Lady Govan's 
Education Le^e. with which relations were exceedingly 
complicated, because Mr. Piatt, of the Temple Club, was a 
member of the Settlement Committee, and made it his aim 
m life to become Liberal member for St. Panwich. in suc- 
cession to the Unionist. Sir Henry Govan. Ind lldy 
Govan was quite formidable : it was not that she did 
everything that was necessary ; she did everything that 
was necessary and hundreds of things which were not 
These advertised her League most destructively by compaii 
with the milder activities of the Settlement 

te.!f^f /S ^^l *°° y°^"S ^^ inexperienced to be 
tempted into these deeper politics, but hints had faUen in 
conver^tion from Piatt, from Churton himself. Indeed, 
the only nian who never laid stress upon these mysteries 
of altruistic competition was the Reverend WiUiani Ford 
Hun<x)te might never have come across Ford had it not 
been for these complicated competitions. But towards the 
w lb, , * ^'^ ^vertisement was given Ford by Pastor 

f^rZ' ^?^. "^ ^' ?^"* ^^°rt«^' ^h° had come ov^r 
from Australia to wresUe for St. Panwich's soul. Huncote 
accidentaUy drifted into the chapel where the PastoTw2 
received as he went on some Settlement business close by 
He spent about a quarter of an hour in the crowded long 
hall, which was packed, gangways and all. by a dark 
crcwd quietly moved to intensity; one ciuld he^^t 
breathe, and it seemed to rise a little towards the orator's 
penods. Pastor Walkley was a taU. large man. the t^^ 



88 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



11 



"elder," with tufts of ^yhite hair brushed straight away 
from his head over his ears, a large untriixiined beard, sjid 
a shaven upper lip that seemed immensely long under the 
wide pugnacious nose. The Pastor had the larg^t blue 
eyes, that looked rather as if they had been boiled, and he 
talked endlessly of the thunders of the Bible, stains and 
dishonours, and hells and defilements ... he boomed 
on drink and eternal torture. . . . 

But what struck Huncote was that he had picked out 
for special attack the Reverend William Ford, who, with 
his boxing class, it seemed, was the pillar of brutality in 
the district, who spat upon the steps of the Temple of 
the Lord. Then Huncote realised that he had not visited 
every section of the Settlement. He had heard of William 
Ford, the Fighting Parson, or Fighting Bill, but he had 
never seen him at work. 

And a great voice boomed from the pulpit denimciations 
of mortal sin, threatenings of everlasting agony, begging 
his audience, ere it was too late, to come " intoe the boosum of 
A-Bra-Ham." It followed him, he thought, right into the 
street. It seemed to drive him out into the night of beer 
and blood that is London. There was no fear in Roger 
Himcote, and because there was no fear Pastor Walkley 
could not save him, could not draw him shrinking and 
reluctant " intoe the boosum of A-Bra-Ham." 

Far from it. As if the Pastor by denouncing it had 
advertised sin he drove Huncote straight on to the Settle- 
ment, where fortunately the Fighting Parson was haNong 
his night. 

He was a blot on the Settlement in a waj' ; the egg of a 
religious cuckoo in an agnostic nest. But theh, through 
wanting to, w perhaps because it had suspected him. 
Fighting Bill had punched and smacked his way in as 
if conscious that in this lay fold were young souls whom 
it was his mission to bring to God by sloshes in the jaw. 
Besides, it had been almost impossible to do without him, 
ior he had beoune too popular in St Fanwich. He >vas 



UTOPIA 



89 



about twenty-six, fair, curly-headed, blue-eyed ; with his 
pink cheeks and white skin he looked like a joUy Irish boy. 
Married at twenty-two. he was then additional curate to 
the rector of St. Panwich, had four children, a small wife 
and a colossal appetite. For about two months St. Pan- 
wich did not notice him ; it vaguely observed that where 
the parson went there was less groaning and intoning 
than usual, but a good deal of boisterous laughter. This 
might not have mattered much: St. Panwich was too 
busy keeping alive to bother about foreign princes and 
parsons, and other lunatics, only one night, outside a 
public-house, two men in railwaymen's uniform, who had 
had just enough, and were preparing to go in to have a 
little more, glared at him. One of them remarked : "Hullo, 
sky-pilot ! At the earhole again ? " 

The Reverend William Ford knew the slums and their 
language ; he at once took in the idiotic insinuation that 
he would report them to the company unless they stood 
him a drink, or otherwise bribed him. Something inside 
him grew bulky ; still, he tried to remember that he was a 
man of God. 

" Don't be silly," he said, " you don't think I'd give a 
man away ! " 

The words were too mild; his tormentor nudged his 
companion: "See him turn the other cheek, matey? 
Shall I spit in his eye, or will you ? " 

The thing inside the Reverend William grew unbear- 
ably large. Instead of walking away lest he should be 
defiled he came a 'ittle nearer. Then, almost simul- 
taneously, the second man attempted to spit into the 
Reverend WUliam's eye while a most untended and un- 
clencal red fist struck him straight in the mouth This 
was the beginning of Fighting Kll's first row. It was 
a gorgeous and wonderful row, for the railwayman was 
game, and for three or four minutes fought weU 
getting in a nasty one over Ford's left eyebrow that 
cut It right open. But crusading blood was up. Foixi 



90 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

Jknced about from right to left foot, spairing. looldne 
like a v^d crow. He rushed into his o^ortV^! 
broke ,t down completely bunged up one S^his eyJ^d 
on recovermg clmched in characteristic style. finiswTg him 
off at last with a most scientific uppercut. He fought in 

^cl f^t*l ' f^ '?« f '■'"*• ^^ °' ™"ffl«J roars of 
Go It. httle 'un ! » and - Kill him. parson ! " Nor did he 

recover when they picked up his advereary. for the first 

nniwJ?^^;!'"*' T?" '*^" '" ^ "^d' ^d he was the 
only thing he could see. the thing he unemngly picked 
out of the crowd and went for like a mad bSi. There 
were protests. Two men tried to hold him. 
"That'll do, parson, you've done enough." 
Then a horrible thing happened. Fighting BiU whirled 
them away, roaring : " Go to hell ! " and leapt on the one 
^^^;^^^JrP^S to protect. This proved a stiU easier 
job than the other, for it seemed that the powe^ of the 
devil, suddenly invoked, joined the gentler ones in the 

the first blow, which by fortune rather than bv skiU 
knded on the point. And with true Christian charity the 
Reverend Wilham helped his opponent up so as to be able 
to knock him down again. 

Fighting Bill walked off' falno'us. The poUce arrived 
upon tiie scene thirty seconds after he left the side street 
with his handkerchief to his eyebrow, and the crowd 
refused to give him away. Somebody told the police tliat 
the unforhinate men had been set upon by four roughs 
which juc^ng from their condition, was quite possfble! 
The story did get about a little later, and the rector\Siced 
that his additional curate had fallen downstairs and hurt 
his forehead. The police did nothing, but henceforth had 
a smile and a salute for the new Knight Templar 

Tlie trouble was that the one who had once been Mr 
Ford and swiftly became the Reverend Bill, end within 
his dub merely " Bill," was now a celebrity. He had to 



I 



'"i 



UTOPIA 



91 



live up to his celebrity, and as nobody believed he was in 
earnest about anything unless he hit them ^? 

he did hit them. He found the taste growing o,^ him ^hi 
hung about the worst parts of St. ^l^t^;^^ 
mostly Mjorst), looking for adventure i^the puM^ 
houses. He found it often, and made a point of aleKt 

Jl\:S°^TSrrr^'""^ "^ ^f- to^ttend'tS^j^l^ 
netook. There m his sennons, he made painful and public 
aUusions to their features and their t«nt«ra^^^^ 
ou^ a wif^beater after three applicatiorS^STp^^ Jj 
S^w ',,• ^**V>»\T™«nt the breath of scancS^early 
touched hmi after his defeat of Posky Joe. the AmS 

S^H^ fn °" ''^^, ""^^ ^' «^«J developed for 
f^ghtmg BiU an entirely hopeless passion ; he l^ded 

tnZ' %^.' ^^5' ^^° ^fonned hTr morals. iSe 
to attain Fighting Bill, the girl attained goodness she 

forehead and an unpowdered nose. But at last ecdSasS 
power interfered. Fighting Bill, who was ^y T?^ 
l^rS^ ^^"^,fJ^Sh Churchman, a Socialist. LH 

'l^i^^'Z^', .^'"^ "P°" ^'^ '^"^"^ "^d and broad. 
Street fights !•' said the rector. "Disgraceful!" 

Finally he threatened to report him to the bishop And 
the Reverend Bill, who had learnt to love S^enei^ef 
while he knocked them into the gutter, firet apoSi^ ^1 
then evolved the theory that salvation could te^e^^y 

T^^''.^^T ^^ *^°^^- So to use up hj? e^^ he 
started ^e boxing class. As his idea w^ S a way the 
same as that of the Settlement, and as the SettlPmI7iJr 
advertised Fighting Bill in eveiy^Si^d^^^SSng iS 
evangehcal practices, he was seduced into L^ay Sd t 

W.I ' ?' ^ "^"^ ^^ ^ ^S- It appealed to him the 
Settlement was in his view no better t^CheU. buTh; fek 

that in P^se he could hope to get on a^^vI^ 
except perhaps St. Geoi^. Fgiting^BiU ^as v!^„^^^^ 



92 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

the Settlement being heU. it was more like Laodicea • 
stiU, Laodicea. devoid of spiritual aims, had worldly ones. 
Mid so came about the queer alliance. The Settlement used 
Fighting Bills mystic fisticuffs to get in the boys whom it 
entan^ed mto technical classes, while the curate slyly 
worked to get them to come to the Communion Table 
befwe bre^ast. (He was often successful in this, as in 
bt. I'anwich many did not have breakfast.) 

Huncote stood for a moment near the door of the big 
room, made shy by novelty. It was very dark except in 
the middte. AU along the waUs were forms, packed with 
youths, some with cigarettes, a shoving, chattering mass. 
Few smoked for nobody under eighteen was aUowed 
tobacco. Fighting Bill had settled that : " If I see you with 
a fag m your, mouth before you're eighteen." he remarked. 

unfSble' " ^" ^°^ ' ^^^ ^"•" ^°^« ^— « 

It was the middle of the scene that struck and impressed 

Huncote. Between the white ropes upon the floor that 

ghttered under the hard, white light of the big gas lamps 

^T^^r r""^' ^^^^ *° *h« ^^st. with clumsy 
gloved hands and quick live bodies. They ducked, thev 

do^'hS^br^^!''.^^ ^^^ ^^^ ^^^ ^ s-^ 

A voice said: " That's nice." 

The youth who had been hit recovered, dodged, and now 
he was upon his antagonist, striking, missing, then striking 
again, dnvmg h«n mto the ropes. ... 

Huncote grew conscious of the referee.'a burly, middle- 
sized figme m clencal clothes, a figure that ran round the 
contistants, that thnist itself between them with an angry 
cry of Break 1" when they clinched. ... And fori 
mwnent, as the figure did not interfere. Huncote saw hnn 
and OTvied hnn. flushed, smiling sideways with a bnUdog 
pipe stuck m the comer of his mouth : Ford at work 1 

Hrarote watched for a long time to the end of this con- 
test, which was to be followed by the boxing dass. when the 



i 
I 



UTOPIA ^ 

c«nte took ten youths together, the rawest begmnerB 
those showing them where to place their feet 3wS 
rapdiy up and down the line to correi S'irl^^ 

Tour;.^ "^^^^^ ^'°'''""" catching flies, are 
him°*^ ^?."P/ """"^ promising one and stood up to 

which Ford's favourite heavyweight was pS^^ 1^^ 
at last It was over, about an hour andlu, half kter^ th^ 
curate closed the proceedings with a shortl^eS^^^^' ' 
Boys, you know where to find me again tf you want 
to s^ me before next Wednesday." (Wink ^^is wL 
forbidden at the Settlement.) - You know where we T^ 

sir, ) WeU. that's all right. Good-bye and d^'l 

Then Ford shouted : " Who's for a drink ? " 
He collected the three who were over twentv^e f«r h^ 
was forbidden by him under that age. the STbetg^ 
^e as for smoking when under eighteef^^tS^v 
broke up he saw Huncote. whom he Lew by ^ht ^^ 
Jom us ? " he said. cheerfuUy. ^ 

Huncote hesitated. He was vaeu«»lv a*ro,/» «* / n • 

•nie Reverend William felt it. "No?" he ^d -S 

^'Ll^L T-\ ""=^ ■»- ^'^' ^^ 

passed on with his disaples. a crowd of smaller bovs ^Ai^^ 
only for gym. foUowing respectfuUy zl^J^^^ 
cscortmg the giant to the ?Le wherell ^^ ^ 



(;' 



f4 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

himself. As they passed and Huncote waited, he heard the 
beginning of an aigumcnt as to whether Bill was as good as 
Gunner Moir. After the room had emptied he went out 
into the corridor, that seemed so cold without anything 
hving in It. Those half-dozen words with Fighting Bill had 
shaken him a little ; the parson seemed so alive and zestful 
as he knocked loafers into heaven. Huncote felt apart, as 
rf he belonged to some inhuman system. Ford and his 
friends seemed to have with them taken warmth He 
sighed ; but what was one to do ? And suddenly there 
came upon him that after all Ford was being used for the 
purposes of the Settlement, was contiibuting to its power 
bnnging through apparent brutality all these boys neare^ 
to culture and to education. It was not his business to 
follow them mto public-houses ; his rather to sow the field 
which Ford ploughed. StiU. it had been dusty in there • 
he felt thirsty. 

"I'd better ^j and have a drink at the 'Progress 
Arms,' he thought. 

§3 

ii ..as just round the comer to the " Progress Arms." as it 
always is to public-houses, except that the •• Progress Arms " 
was not exactly a public-house. It was a large white room 
with a monastic air ; a hint of cheerfulness in its disordered 
benches ; an accumulating hint of aestiietic developments 
about the Kingsley and John Morley texts upon the wall. 
This den of Janus showed tiie face of improvement by the 
side of the face of the drinking hell. (The alliance between 
the sheep and the goat ; and could they cross ?) On the 
improvement side were four newspapers, the Daily Mail 
the Datly News, the Daily Chronicle, and the Daily 
Cittzm. This congress of poUtical oppositions had created 
m the bosom of the Committee a fine sense of open- 
mmdedness, because each member objected to at least two 
out of the four papers. On the improvement side also, on a 
shelf, were some ReaUy Good Books, the titles of which 



UTOPIA 
Hunoote could not <m • k.,* u ^^ 

2r^ by one of ttem wLh T^ ^""u "** *»»« ^»»<"« 
Pleasures of Dfe- bv sS' T^h t ^JJ" **" ^^ *»'• "The 
it had been flu^ there ^S^"^^'^' '* ^«>k«J as if 
revellers. * ^*^ K^* ^o^ence by ore of the 

. SliiS^d^'S^iTant "'!*,*» '-•*"° Sa^iet,. „„ 

the tennaid .^Z, TjZCr ^f 1""' "T"'- •»" 
there was the iramKMn™ J "^*" '^^ evil. Lastly 

<5-ughts.chI^!irdio^"=wr"^S-*°PP«i tabIS 
the dominoes were enSTTwo^h" ^""~'" '^^ « 
reveUeiB, while anoth«^hL *^®'" ^Pressed-looldng 

to his head. wr^LSrcoSn^r^ *° ^^^ gone 
progressive remarks toTh^^S k ' ^* P^^^^bly 
a little stir when Huncotr^i •*^^^- ^'^ ^« 
dominoes. The man aT^ bS^L^K."^ "^°"S «»« 
respectfully wished hhn " gSS 'f^S^*^^^ hin^W and 
grew veiy conscious ofb^in.^J ^""'^- ^« barmaid 

"A cup of^a p&^°??Sr*'^^^^^^«^^«'t. 
silence that foS ^f^oe^M f"^"^''' ^^ ^ ^^ 
" Go on. don't mind me » fS^ *° "^^ *° *^« '«>»nful. 
were minding him But hturbv'li^*!^- '''' *^^* ^^^V 
grow easier; two youtte <Sme in^i'?^' *^"^' ^"^^ tj 
began, behind a chL-toarT^o IT '" ^ "^^'^ «>««• 
their own with a metSh^ tin/ ^k?""" ^"^^ S^ of 
pected it must be shTv^^fSl^ t?°"f, ^'l HuncSte sus- 
whatwasonetodo.?^7S^"rZ;'*"^y^<>'-bidden. But 
at the bar and the barnSd ^"^"^ '" conver^tion the man 

; Rather a fine night." he said. 

"AUm'r^^^'Zl :^t'« hope it'll keep on - 
refinedly. ^ ^^ ^° *^' "^"^^ Sood," said the to^d 

yer^'r^urtl^*^;^ SSTwi^'j r*^- ^ ^^ "Shut' 
Ah. no.- sighed the banned. - Isn't that true, sir ? 



111 



96 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

Still, we mustn't grumble, must we, sir ? Every clood has 
a silver lining." 

"That depends, that depends," said the man, disoon- 
entediy. 

His nose was so long, and so thin, and so sharp that Hun- 
oote felt sorry for him. Whatever happened one would 
never be contented with a nose like that. 

" That depends." said the man, looking at him. " For 
instance, there's my eldest boy, I can't manage him. 
Manage that boy? Well, yer might as well try and 
manage a bl . . . a blessed wild horse. Now I put it 
to yer, sir, as man to man I put it to >'er, sir. . . ." 

As man to man he put it to him that Fred broke 
windows aivl played truant, and stole pennies from the 
till, "regular bad boy." He put it to Hunoote as man to 
man, and then he put it to him again. And again. 

" Well." said Huncote, " what's to be done ? What have 
you done ? I s'pose you've tried thrashing ? " 

The man looked shamefaced, and his nose chastened. 

" On principle, sir, I woukln't do it, but what's a man to 
do? I've given him many a leatherin', but it's no bl . . . 
no use. sir. I've got to get him into a reformatory. Ah, 
if I could do that. . . ." 

" How sad." murmured the bariaid, gently. 

The man began to paint the reformatory of his dreams, 
where Fred would be washed, and taught, and got out of 
the way of the beak, where at lei st, if Fred did not cease 
troubling, his father would be at ret. 

" And the beak won't send 'im there," h&said, aggrievedly. 
" I don't know what 'e's wdting for. Murder, I expect." 

Joe Beesby came in. * The beak ! " he gnmibled. " Cup 
o' corfee, miss, please. The beak! Good evening, sir, 
I was telling you about 'iiu the other night." 

" Yes, you were," said Hunoote, desperately, remember- 
ing the story of the tools. So he turned towards the long, 
thin nose. 

" We ought to get him into an industrial school,* be sdd. 



UTOPIA 

trytaf to get'^^eV i„ a ?^," -^^WW <iaughter, I've be« 
ye«f»" He paused »nrt „ " ^ •»» n>y ambition for 
the little b.PrSp TSrS'"""." ^ 'Ws bald head 

^^ Dyer thmk j^r cud get 'm, into an industrial «h„„,. 

Now I put it to ver as * » j i 

Two more men came in and <J>m^ ^°"^' *^" "««• 
that he was blockX iLt>^^ opposite Huncoto. so 
They endlessly elXied tW^ »J ^''^ ^* *^« nose, 
remedies which aSSv hrh.^"*"^? ?^««* '°^ ««» 
likeasceneontST^^^!h^'.t"^^h^^^ It was 
his head, and the^S Z^Jw "^^"""^ ^'^^ 
he did talk beautifT^ ^^ ** ^ "^J^y* ^^^'^g 
helr^ut ^?r^^°^5e/o. h, ^p^ ^^^ 

parents who talked^uSi„1^' • "^^ ^'^^ ^ «»e 
formatoiy andlTc^pJ" "^^5 J?'^ "^'^^^ "^ the r«. 
going to get th^ S^Sr^If ^;?^ ^ « *^y were 
was not that peopfeL^tTw ^ ^^ '"^^- I* 
anonymous noT^ But^^re ^^' "ot ^^^ "*>'' «» 
suspicion as to the a^tv7/l- °^"*S "Pon him a 
not go home^S*^but f-,'"?:"'^- ^d«>hedi2 
Bubwith's, cuttinTSLc Si """^ ^"^^ walking past 
It was ver^^iSS,^^-J t^w-ds ^"«'«^^ 
sold drink. As he^fh- !u P*** ^^'n^^ where they 
I>eucanon. tolL^^n^L^ ^Jtl- '/^ *^ ^ 

i«>-':t^£t!Sr'St"iil?ffiif«^ 

"»e alley that .leads into Ruadise 



I I 

! i 






98 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



Square. It was twelve o'clock and, spurred on by the 
clock that is always a little fast, the men in the public bar 
were shouldering one another. One could hardly hear one- 
self order a drink, such a deep buzz of talk did there come 
from the private bar and the ladies'. For a moment the 
barmaid hovered over Himcote, turkey-cock body and 
torch head. She winked at him as she gave him his 
whiskey and soda, thought him green, for this drink seemed 
aristocratic in the public bar. For a moment she rested 
on her elbow and stared at him. Then, as he raised his 
glass, remarked : " Chin-chin." 

He laughed, feeling together shy and comfortable. 

Two men who were close up against him nudged each 
other and, laughed at him, with him. They were not quite 
drunk. "She didn't 'arf give 'im the glad eye," mur- 
mured one of them, nodding towards Huncote as he spoke. 
" No wonner he thinks hisself a Piccadilly torf." He was 
not offensive. He laughed as he spoke, and somehow 
Himcote found himself joined to him by his merriment. 

In a few moments he was talking to them. One was 
a navvy, the other a taxi-driver. It was a strange con- 
versation for, starting from their daily work, it passed on 
swiftly to the political views of their class, to ideas. 

" You got to 'ave imemployment," said the navvy. 
" 'Ow'd yer manage w'en there's a rush if there weren't 
no unemployed ? " 

The taxi-driver nodded sagely : " You've got it, but 
if 11 all be stopped w'en we get the Right to Work Bill. 
Another mouthful of Guinness's, Miss, an' keep yer eye 
orf youth and beauty." (Nodding towards Huncote.) 

The taxi-driver and the navvy fell to' discussing the 
Right to Work Bill, and Huncote, listening, saying " yes " 
or " no " when appealed to as a sort of judge, found it 
extraordinary that these men should understand so well, 
without, of course, being able to state in poUtical form 
what they thought, the reactions between the supply and 
the demand of goods, the reserve of labour, a thing of 



i S 



UTOPIA 

to «™glerfor the S^^ti V" *"" """ •««" 
on the same footing as m™ ^^ ^"^ "> ** P'»«» 
sumably because wfnSi mlL f "f"^ <">'«*«'. !»«- 

-^,^.t to. y^TLTL-iT'Zr^::^ 

Then, when their pohti^a^JtitS. 'J T"^' 
anarchism which thoS^Jfc!.* ^.^^^«d. extreme 
given a drink ^ " conservative. Huncote was 

thr^:grtLfis?i:nr:inrwtr^ ^ ^^ ^^^^^ ^-^ 

night. He did not wanH 2^*'°"^ °^ *^« ^^ing 
rooms in Clare StreeTtLe J°,^^^ *° ?^ ^^^y ««]! 
lady would have ^ontiheZr"" '"" *^" ^^^- 
where, if the window w^'^n T Tc ^' ^°°™ 
washstand would pro^brbe Sv; I \^^ ^°P^^' ^^e 
smuts. Through KralS^n'^wTdc^^^^^ 
Lane that winds, by dav vTnW . ^^^ ^^^' ^rapp's 
so little and so still^tow^rlh * "^^^^ ^^ ^^ "^g^ 
accompany him saU h^ .u ."°'^' ^^*^ "^thing to 

so little remained of The woTdofdf ^f.^^'" ^^^P^d 
vegetables fallen hoTthe^ter?\' ,f^' '"^'^ <>i rotting 

a cat's paws as it leant froiT.- ?^ ' *^^ Padding of 
the distant IowingTl'^™f,^jr °°.thepavemfnt 
Mi^'Miskin so often deZx^d *(Sf^*!^, ^^^ ^-^ 
I that eveiy day grew wider H. ^^ ?*^" ^" ^ We 
hanisaticns id^„g ^ »« fought of all these 
,^d the P.S.A.'sro^f trcle^'thl *^ ^^"^he^hoods 
[tradesman, the silk-hatt^ men t:i, "''*^'' *^« smaU 



J 



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100 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 






m 1 1 






too little and that public-house where he had just drunk 
meant nothing, perhaps Fighting Bill meant too much. 
So like a dog running fast after a stone, and so fast as to 
over-run it. Even Fighting Bill seemed artificial in this 
icy blue light that fell from the moon and made blacker 
shadows upon black stones, as if the earth were dead and 
another Selene. He laughed. A new Selene. And Fight- 
ing Bill's Sunday meetings where gentlemen probably 
defied their collars and woie chokers to encourage men 
who either never wore collars or never changed them. 
It seemed so funny and so unreal, this business he wa% at 
with the others. He turned back, and as he did so he 
sighed. For a little while he stopped in front of Bubwith's 
Stores, npw shuttered. Chairs and tables, horsehair and 
plush, yes, that was all soUd enough. Anyhow one could 
sit on it. He sighed. 



i ( 



CHAPTER THE FIFTH 

WAVERING WINGS 



new ^IdS^ For^,T; ^ '^ J^ "^*^«°". oHen suggested 
«w neios. i-or otherwise he would have been lonelv 

were country people, most of whom shmned the wickrf 

l^ZLTJ^ ^'°™ *^^ ^°''^' his society on aimless 

thtghStdt^X^S^'his'^ T^'^' "^^^^ ^^^ 
met casuaUv wriTfJr?. °A^ ^^^^^'o^s- I^tton he 

nothing of th^ pt,^ « " 7 .». , ^^"^ * ^^tton knew 
' ^^'^^^ night, exc^t sometimes of Moss, with 



i 



ii 

It < 



HI 



1 



102 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

whom he would like to have pursued that convereation 
about Bach. But he dared not go to Copthall Buildings • 
Moss was part of the past that made him. and past. Hun - 
cote was like a kitten that knows not its mother after 
SIX months. 

He had abandoned the Employment Bureau now, and 
was engaged on an attempt, initiated by Piatt, to Raise 
the Artistic Status of the People. Piatt, who belonged 
to the Temple Club (and was bald and a Liberal) had 
determmed to harness to the chariot of his political career 
the prmciples of the Kyrle Society. One had to give the 
people the habit of pictures, "for every picture tells a 
story," Piatt suggested. And so, if one began by hanging 
the people's rr tts with reproductions of "The Golden 
Staircase," or . r Dante's First Meeting with Beatrice " 
one might, little by little, by inducing them to accept 
other pictures of the same nature, bring them to hang 
pictures, artistic, of course, most artistic, but reading a 
truer party lesson. Pictures of Mr. Gladstone, for instance 

Also, he was dutifuUy visiting the " Progress Anns" once 
a week, and now and then he played at concerts His 
past troubled him a little : those people he had befriended 
Mid. notably, the woman afflicted with the frequent twins 
For affection had developed in her. and so she would 
come in now and then, when he still controUed the Employ- 
ment Bureau, and detect in his face svr ^oms of disease 

"You're lookin' a bit pale. Miste. cote. I been 
Uke that. It's wisteria, the doctor says it is: I know 
I've 'ad it." 

Huncote reassured her as to hb hysteria. But if he 
was not pale he was sallow, and when noticed was told • 

" That's jaundice, sir, I know, I've 'ad it." 

Huncote's prot^fe would have been appreciated by 
the curator of the College of Surgeons' Museum. 

There was a Purity for Boys movement, too. But 
that was to lead him further. 

It was aU very desultory, very Uke the picture-postcard 



WAVERING WINGS ,„ 

rt^a^ toshund surro^ded by puppies, who gU^fy 

I^«\^T° ^ ?■'"« ^'^' »"«•=' I ' I " 
landlady had ne^iS^ , ,"°.™="^'''° P'a^es his 

|hat ttend ha^^ "^"'15^. «v» though 
>>« life, desulton-, ft 1be^l7;h.^! Z'^ .™ >^ 
Street, where Flnr^v !, ^^ * ™ ®*- Ptowich Kgh 
g«en^£;i„=',^'»«l»tt-«ed attention; tS 

his peers to be/wTn^^ . a'«°»"t with one ol 
titte?rilSe Hu?™""" .tJ'^™ **» 8irl alone. Hora 
side. aJdtJ'twr^' StS fiS ="^ """-y "-r 
tions of feminine S«T>H^ "^"^'^'^ P""' "*a. 
you're squeeri^ ^vst^I^T^ ?i ^'*- ^■ 

for n^. ,hen becS^ ^o4"™*"''>' "" «"»«™» socks 

.^'^p^i^h^zsiisiy*:"''"""^™— " 

Youd hate London if you Uved in it - h. «-^ « 
only want a change Ynn nn„i,w i ' "® *^*^' yo« 

violentincathedriSZ: ^v.T"^ ^^>^ ^ »<>« 
"waitowns. They take people's mind off it," 






1 



i. 



104 



THE STRANGERS' WE1>DING 



They progressed towards St. John's Wood, Flora still 
bemoaning her fate. 

" It's mother," she said. " There she is with her half- 
socialism, with her half-suffrage, sticking in the mud, and 
me with her. And she calls herself progressive ! " 

"She is . . . for St. Olaves. Flora dear, don't 
you see that if she came to town she'd no longer be 
jH-ogressive, no longer have prospects ? " 

" Well, what if she hadn't ? Prospects are for youth, 
retrospects for age." 

Huncote looked at her, amaaed. 

" Flora ! This is the most modem kind of epigram, it 
means nothing, it's entirely idiotic, and it sounds profound. 
Flora ! I believe you've fallen in love with a member of 
the St. Olaves Fabian nursery." 

She laughed, she blushed. (She did both so prettily.) 
And her brother's guess was right oucTigh, for the remark 
had been made by a young architect, the philosophical 
anarchist who was restoring the gargoyles of the Abbey, 
singing as he worked most obscene Italian songs. (A minor 
canon, who understood It in, caught him at it once, 
but was nonplussed when told that profanity formed an 
essential part of the mediaeval spirit of worship.) But it 
was not Flora's policy to announce her scalps : mystery 
made them more; had she fallen in love with a hydra 
she would not have hinted at a hundrej* heads. 

Instead she went on mourning ; in St. Olaves she was 
marooned. 

" Look at that," she cried in Marlborough Road, pomting 
to the grounds of the Fly-fishing School, where the trees, 
Bke taU black-clad schoolgirls, crowned with stray green 
leaves, curtseyed to the light spring wind. "Look at 
that, it's like St. Olaves, only it's London. Roger, we 
ough t to h ave a house here. D'you think mother would ? " 
She grew excited, seiaed him by the arm as she looked 
at the beautiful wild plot of meadow and trees where 
sometimes nightingales sing, yet of the builder spared. 



WAVERING WINGS 105 

1^^^'lST u^ ^* ^°"^^ ^ ^«^ dear ? to buy that 
land f and to btuld a hoii»> ? Oh j>^^ 7^. 

house. You're rich 1 « ' ^°^''' y°" ^""^ » 

" I'm not." 

T'll"^' ^^'' T'' V' ^^' ^^g^r- <Jo build a house and 
kee^rl'^'"'^ ^That's what you caU being a house- 

to^i^^t^rA^y-^^;-^^^^^ 

gate, she was still excitedly talldng oTtlfe St O^l 
house which her mother ought to buUd on^e pL wJ^ 

It v^ only just then that dimly, as if he saw th^m 

^^tlT£^' «""«*« ^- thieTrS^tl^^S 
N^ deil nf ^^^^^^^.t "^sed its internal organs 
^ot clearly, of course; it was something like a rS 

^S^^C%^^e:elvTftcr7 *^*^^t^a 
dead. 'callSTl^a'S'^ifl^;-' l^L^T"^ 
persons behind the movement. S upo^ ti^^ T 
movement had had a soul of its ovm b£^ ^^l ^^ 
spirit incorporeal. ' ^^^ * beneficent 

m^r;nd?t'L«H'^^^^' ^' ^°™^ "^° ^^d the move 
ment. and it made the movement a little coarse Tf ™lo 

But b««»e HtBcote was what he TO^ ttat is mdiiect 



Wf 



'■i 



I 



; I 



io6 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

oL^n^t • T"! *° "«d«stand the picture system by 
observing it j ust as he was unable to understand ie purity 

TiT ^ M^"?^. '* • *^ ^^ *h^ ^y o' the crayfish, 
and he could conclude as to the pictures only by obserZg 
punty The purity was reaUy very interestiri. It had 
navly been introduced into St. Pan^ch when the Settl^ 
ment m its layn^. realised that the Alliance of Honour 

1? loSi T"*^ ^- ^- ^'y'' ^^ ^^°"g»^t off a comer 
L J^ ^^^Y movements. And the Settlement (being 
ky) thought It rather a pity that the people, in the couSI 
« V ^ made pure, should also have to be saved 
You see "said churton. whom Huncote suspected of 
havmg created the whole idea and of hiding it^iith the 
^tentatious modesty so rife in pubUc sSLlbo^ - we 
felt we couldn't leave it out. Not exactly nice, of comse 
Only when ^ley've got this sort of th^ all JverTe 

"?™!l^MP?p*A"r°*' * "*^" P^PMet. entitled 
tolS^riS S»*Ki^^.^°''''' To Young Men. The Road 
to Punty. (48th edition. 157th thousand.)" 

Huncote looked at « the sort of thing " with rather un- 
certain emotions. He read the confes5on of a nSTwTo 

!fnnc ♦ 5? * ""f^ P™^^""* imagination, then vague aUu- 
sions to the maelstroi, of passion and the bhss of wedlock 
He read also a pathetic little story, entitled "Excelsior" 
begmmng with the body of a well-dressed young woman 
being found hanging in a doss-house. It Ls q iST^ 
exatmg httle book, with pictures of the T^TLZ 
down, arid of British soldiers defending in a TXSf 
Transvaal something that looked hke a trL. butproSwy 
^ not It was quite the sort of thing that bo^ ^^ 

^fh^ V '"'" „"°*. '^^"^^"ie"* for lay purposS owing 
to tiie rehgious aBusions at the end. It^^Trather a 
revdaton to Huncote. He had never r^sed before 

SS- «Rirw"*""S >^ ^"^«^* -' *^-^"« 
Cn»s Royal Womanhood in every Rank." and many 

such hke. that there were classes which th; comm^y 



WAVERING WINGS ,^7 

quite uncomfortable a FTSZ^^'hl°°' ^f ™*^« ^ 
he returned How rnnM 1, 1 ^"""S *^^ *o w^ch 

nice" an^ ♦», ^ lighting Bill murmured "Thaf« 
nice and then roared "Clinch, you siUv Idd!" H„« * 
found himself haunt^H k« +1,^ e> 1 a ' Huncote 

What George Green was doing in the SettioJ^ 5 • T 
and the mexercfaed. iC^^'"~ "" «» ">»i«i 

shamed, half-boastful. ^en^^TrlJ^^ "^' ^^^- 
he was sober and iwiiW h^„^ T" "'"'^^y«* ^^t 
get on. and 6^yZZ S^'ccS ton^ "^."^^ *^ 
didn't. In those early davs^n^L^ ^.^ '^^'^^^ 
believe that someth^g nobte JS^? • ^"^ '*^ *^^« *» 
in George Green' XStr^^^^^^^^^.^tnigg^^ 
to find that something wSr;v>ni2^^ * "^^ ^°"y *^ 
with such a ycncT7vo^lr^t''\y^ °' » "»^ 
Hm^cote had kno;n hT;o^' Ll"^"',^"^*^ ^ « 
and more indignant • he wouM w \^ ^ surpnsed 
^ Picked upTlhi ^^r^^'t^^^ 



(f 



I 



Ih 



i 



< I' 



io8 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



some mortgages on houses pulled down to buUd the Settle- 
ment. He had realised that the Settlement might grow, 
and had shown himself so interested, so easy in his terms, 
that on the creation of the Committee, competition not 
yet being keen, he had obtained a seat. The Settlement 
had been extended from time to time. Churton was 
sometimes puzzled by an architectural problem; then 
the builder would say : " Leave it to me and my man, 
Mr, Churton, me and 'im'U do it for you at corst price." 

Huncote had not realised this ; he had but glimpsed it 
just as he was now glimpsing the sensuous connections 
between the builder and the purity movement. He awoke 
to it only when George Green came to his office to com- 
plain about a secular short story in pamphlet form. With 
this the Settlement tried to warn youth against perils 
which the Settlement was too modest to name. It was the 
usual kind of warning— rather suggestive, entirely un- 
educational. 

" Now I arsk yer, Mr. 'Uncote, what's the good o' this ? 
'Go's goin' to read this ? That wot yer caU ginger ? " 

Huncote read the opening, which had been composed, 
he seemed to remember, by Mrs. Ramsey, entitled 
"Beauty's Shrine":— 

" Upon a beautiful April morning a young Englishman, 
tall and fair as a Greek god, stood by the side of a brook. 
By his side a young maiden of sweet seventeen sat at his 
feet, with her eyes glued to the simmions that he should 
join his regiment. They did not speak, but listened to 
the noise, far away, of a train » in the valley. She looked 
up to him, her eyes swimming in tears, and said : ' Oh, 
Archie, must you go ? ' 

"' It is my duty, * said the yoimg soldier, for he was a 
son of the bulldog breed. . . ." 

In due course the story became pathetic; the young 
soldier was tempted more often than even yoimg soldiers 
are tempted and more horribly, for it was ahnost impossible 
• Originally " chorch bells." Deleted by the Committee. 



WAVERING WINGS ,09 

1902). so probably his nuree ^ «t fa^ entenc about 

pilled Md s^&^ttts^'n^?- V°"? ""• ^■ 

the maiden waitiiTto to afSeTh '"'f^ " *"'* 

" No," said Hunrote atTn^fc - t "^""y *'»'»■■• 

wha. you'd cSl™ hy^'^^fl^J"n^,"'-''«acay 

they had pu. M„. RiLy^ThS^^' ''*"?. Piy 
was not literalme but the white daTTLS '^'^ 

somethin' as they'll think "'.'"'^ Wot you wmt is 

Hmcote looked at him rather pualed. 
^I'^^'J^'iP"^- ^•<' <» mating the evil you 

^X S^ * T r^ "** » »*°'* an- 
them interthel^^enrC;" «2 «^ <^ » to git 

at 'em in. SetU^SSTSSl' th^^t ^l^Ht ".rj^."" 
Society." His tone h«Jm! t_ • « ' 1"1« the Fabnan 

We aij;'t so^cL^'Jrr*- «^^L,%'^' 
with a violent elbow "ll^ ^1 "= ""''S^l Huncote 

Brighton, are we?^ vmP^^'T.'', ""^""^ »' 
in those days) "■'«'" (Eh. what? was popular 

He'TfL'^ti^to'^^r' «- <^«. 
Green's inter^t taS l,^^^*^ """"^ "' ^'"^ 
.nan actually liked p^ £SSe h ZT'' ^''' *** 
'"S'buifJer^.l Sr^-t-tS^C.'^ "- 

say. B yer want^' to r^d Se^^^' f *' ^™"* 
■ot. picture of Venus oi ^rortm^?^' ™ *"^' 



zzo 



I 






THE STRAKGERS' WEDDING 



M ft 



'Ot I " thought Huncote. " 'Ot I " 

The builder grew purposeful: purity exdted him. He 
hinted at an early marriage, not regretted, for, of course* 
"the missis was the best woman in the world, but still' 
one does want a bit of a change, and the spirit is willing 
but the flesh is weak, as Shakespeare says." 

Huncote hstened to him, glad to listen ; the builder 
was willing to talk, and revealed himself so completely, 
every side of himself— his love of home and his respect 
of it, his real and deep love of his wife and children, all 
these things stowed away in a water-tight compartment ; 
outside that compartment the gay world of larks and 
smut where moved women figures, prostitutes or femala 
employees, bom for his pleasure. Huncote did not like 
to comment dn his private life ; anything but generalities 
made him shy. Indeed, he grew so shy that he deflected 
the conversation, as he did not know how to get rid of 
Green. From home he tried to lead him to building. 
But Green had a good deal to say about home ; he loved 
it. 38 he loved his wealth, because he had earned both 
at the price of much suffering, much labour, by dint of 
an obstinate fighting courage, of a tireless enterprise in 
finding out who had land, who money, and who wanted 
to build. 

"Bort a planner the other day for the nursery," he 
confided. " O' course, we already 'ad one in the drawring- 
room. Still, 'ad to 'ave another for the smalls." He 
reflected upon his greatness; then, as if soliloquising: 
" So the vale plays the drawring-room one, and Arabella 
plays the nursery one with all the windows open. That 
fetches the neighbours, I can tell yer." He grew intense : 
" I'd^put down another forty quid, I would, just to show 
'em.* 

Huncote could not help laughing, but Green looked at 
him stupidly. Then, dedding that Huncote had laughed 
out of courtesy, went on : " You ain't thinkin' of buildin' 
Mr. 'Uncote, are yer ? " * 



WAVERmc WINGS „, 

h^'Z'^^"'^:. ■ Wat wouM I wttt with . 

lAiiM- Tk-* ■ t_t . »P™ig- Oh, that aint a bad 
^JaaS^ naghbourhood's comin' on. Tell™, JT- 
he added, with a burst o£ fankness "nmn l'*^ ' 
and rows of places that »in?^^K /^™ "P ""*» 

y^. that ain? ™o4£^Lr^ 'll^' „??" ■"""' * 
something tony. Now Mr-IW. me ave a go at 

»P a liti .oL ta.ke^'iJ^r^^S.S^"'-". Z 

^ib^n^^s std r.^«T7!-.il-^--T 

"What say?" ^ "® nudged him. 

Huncote edged away ; this was horrible H^m ,«^^ 
was GcDrge Green working with the^Ter^ th.f k'^^' 

iTnot'^/.r^-tsb''^ '^^^'.ot'hr: 

away ; he cou7.^^f^^'T^''^0\ "' """ 
and tried again in his fort^fi^f^^i^l,""™ ^'«^ 
to io on. So that was it -(S r ""* "^ 

behind the pmitv wS whi,^^- '^' ^-^ualist, 

visible, too. Piatt of « tk« r- i j /' . "^^^^ ^*** was 
xoo. mtt of The Golden Staircase," Hatt of 



I ! 



112 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

" Dante's First Sight of Beatrice." preparing the way to 
a safe seat. The men behind the movement, men fallible. 
For a shattering moment Huncote saw the movement as 
fallible as they. 

§3 

And yet he did not refuse to join the Committee when, 
rather suddenly, at the end of April he was nominated. 
Suddenly ? It seemed suddenly, and yet it was not, for 
Green, working as usual on lines obscured, came to him 
two days after this conversation, 

"You orter be on the Committee, Mr. 'Uncote. The 
first time as I set eyes on yer, I says to Mr. Churton, 
I says, 'That's the gent. 'E's got to come on." 
His Uttle' dark eyes grew smaller and more briUiant : 
" There's a vacancy, there alius is a vacancy." He rolled 
over Huncote's protests : " Leave it all ter me. Oh, no. 
there won't be no opposition; I'll put it across 'em if 
there is." 

And somehow within a few weeks Huncote found him- 
self paralysed into accepting this nomination. He was 
entangled, too, in a conversation which hideously con- 
nected with the previous one about the house he ought 
to build in the fly-fishing school. " Go on, Mr. 'Uncote," 
said the voice of the siren, " I'm not trying to rush yer'; 
'ave a little 'ouse if yer want it ; pay wot yer like and' 
'ave wot yer Uke, that's wot I alius says." 

Huncote was nudged, and helplessly found himself 
saying he'd think it over, just as helplessly as he had 
accepted the nomination. He could not stand up to this 
man. Purity, building, and committee wangling, it was 
all too much for him. George Green talked a lot about 
wangling. Huncote did not quite know what it was, 
but anyhow he was wangled on to the Committee within 
a fortnight, and every day he grew more afraid that he 
would also be wangled into the house in Marlborough 
Road. ^ 



WAVERING WINGS „^ 

were decorated L^ LTTI ^^?^ room ; the wafls 

most of the mSbnTX'H? ""^ ^T Hmcote toew 

Churton report^ ^S nf! *^, "^^ *°° »»^- 
was for the^^ ormn- ^ ^ ^^^P"^' ^°'" ^<^^- This 

pay the seaetL^ SeeJ^th^J^P "f. *^« *al>ric and 
which Huncote^d not Llr!^ ^'I!!"^ *° ^ *^°"ble 
imttee and the TrSt^ Z^r'^^^^'^ *^« Com- 
Trustees refused tTi^t^ ^ "" ^' '^'^^ S^*«-' ^^^ 

™ evidence o7r^^t^H^T° \^^^ I«™* 



«4 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



n 



mittee, and promised to draft a letter to the Trostses. 
suggesting a oomproniise. 

A vote for repairing the leaky roof of the east wing was 
passed. "Only a slate or two," said George Green; "leave 
it to me and my man, me an' 'im'll do it at corst price." 

Churton reported on the arrangements for the dance in 
another fortnight, which caused further acidity. 

" If you ask me," said Mrs. Ramsey, " there's more harm 
than good done by these dances. We hve amor^ a loose 
population which it is our business to raise, not to d^;rade." 

" Surely there's nothing degrading about a dance, Mrs. 
Ramsey," said Hatt, suavely. 

" I don't say there b, and I'm not going to talk religion, 
though you all know my views. I've come into this lay 
Settlement setting aside my deepest feelings." Murmur of 
approval from Miss Miskin. " And we all know that the 
ramifications of the white slave traffic . . ." 

For several minctes Mrs. Ramsey exposed the soul- 
market which might or might not be established within a 
Settlen^nt dance, until at last, and in the nick of time, 
she was interrupted by Miss Miskin. Said the lizard : 

"And they get very hot, and >f«*en they're hot they 
have too much to drink. This Settlement does not take 
enough notice of the drink ppoblem. . . ." 

" I beg your pardon. Miss Mskin," said Hatt, " but we 
supply lemonade." 

"They go to the public-house during the intervals," 
snarled Miss Miskin. 

"And greater evils follow," her ally, Mrs. Ramsey, 
went on. 

It was Jl Churton and Piatt could do, with a little help 
from HuncDte, to explain that even if the dance ended in 
all the men being drunk and all the girls bemg kidnapped 
to Buenos Ayres, the posters were out, and it would have 
to happen. The Comimittee slowly resolved into grumb- 
ling consideration of the decay of the area railings. The 
anonymous Mrs. Charlie remained all through eloquently 



WAVERING WINGS 
watchful She was like a meclwni^i *.• . . 
of springing, but wTie^S^lL^r "x?* ""^^^ 
not pay much attention to 4T^J^^'^""~t« *<i 
sensation of seeing t^es tS^„^** Proceedings, for this 
him still. mTt^^^ S^ g^ was on 
Wm their fierce l^^of tf,? w^ ^" ^~ showing 
to organise ; thel^t^, ^tlS^'llir^i? ^^^ ^^ 
come in to make other 11"!^ ^' ^™^ *o have 
Wjt. IX>ubtles:*t '^^r^^^^^Wh she <^^ -t 

worst." he thought, with sudrf^n • • ^°^ *« *he 

^y. '"rg\in,7Sn^:x^iL.r "^^ 

with thoughts of immoralitv t?' ^^ ^* ™»nd 
these fierce busybod^^*^,;,,^^^ "^^ «> queer, 
relief by suave F^r^^ ^°"?^' °"t in such Ihari^ 
ix>pular.'' ^tt sSSi S, hST^ *° -^ ^-^V 
-Let me see. you Wot a ^ > * '"'"^ *at said: 
haven't youP-'^He ^^^^^ii^^" ^*« ^" Clai^ St^et. 

miJS^^f S S?; X^-^ ^ -rn^r of the Corn- 
admitted to deci(tewh^f 1. ^ * sub^mmittee. was 

signed byhim.theanSou^« r? r'^"*' ^"^'<=h was 
left the Committee m^Z^;^^\'^^ ^ Miskin. 
Parson's attitude had^n'^'Srr*' ^S' *^* ^^^ting 
•^Wress Arms.' ^d S"hai^\^-*" *^™^ ^t° thf 
while Miss Miskm's view wa^ tL^' "^^"^ °^ «>«>a'" 
should be treated as wl^moi^h 'a"^°S^ An,^" 
mous Mrs. Charlie shr h.^T^''' ^ ^°»" the anonv- 
tennediate th^ft wi in^J ?" l,^ «> skilfully b- 
Which clearly I^d^^'^fjlf^^- And the deLte. 
committee, began ag^ ^^ "^*'"SS of the sub- 

of cheerfuhiess." ' ^ ^®t m the wrong kind 

Mre. Ramsey protested. 
Oh, you know what I mean M« d 



™« the sejces in 



a 



116 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



place like that, the demand arises fw something stronger 
than ooooa." 

"D'you suggest it's the women who demand beer?" 
asked Fighting Bill. 

"No, Mr. Ford; I've ah-^y readied in sulM^mniittee 
to that preposterous question. At any rate, I do not 
want the women in." 

" WeU, I do." said Fighting BUI. Then with irritating 
aflectation : " Bless 'em ! " 

The debate was complicated by the interventim of Mi-s. 
Ramsey, who saw dangers other than drink in the Ire- 
quentation of the "Prc^jress Arms" by women. The 
position seemed to be that the men seemed disinclined to 
go without their sweethearts and wives, and that the 
"PSrogress Arms" might as well be shut up for all the 
patronage it secured. 

" Let it be shut up," screamed Miss Miskin. 

" Beer instead of cocoa," growled the Fighting Parson. 

It was like rival war-cries. Huncote interfered, pleaded 
for a little Liberalism, pointed out that if the "Progress 
Arms " did not admit women the •« King's Arms " did. He 
was sat upon by both the women, while the parson laughed^ 
and Piatt attempted to soothe everybody. Then George 
(keen was drawn in ; "I'm not one for the drink," he said, 
fixing Miss Miskin with an imploring eye, "been a tee- 
totaler all my life, but wot I says is this, if a woman's 
going to make a beast of 'erself she don' want to go to 
the ♦ Progress Arms ' ter do it, not she I" 

Fbtt came in with a diplomatic suggestion that it should 
be tried for a month. For the first time that afternoon 
the anonymous Mrs. Charlie seemed moved *o enthusiasm. 
George Green seemed disappointed. Miss Miskin could not 
very well refuse, any more than he could, and so very 
soon it was decided to try for a month the admisskn of 
women to the " Progress Arms." Very soon irffsrwards, in 
the midst of heaviness, when Ford had left the Com- 
mittee after telling Hnnoote in an undertone that if Canter* 



WAVERING WINGS 

frequent wrangle be^^^^^j^^ on one of Z 
the Conunittee becaiS he ^rfS P'"^" ^^ «»e rest o 
An acrid ^^scass.T^^^" ZtL^^ "^^"^^ ^ P'P«- 
d^respectful to the Iadi« ^' "^ ^^^«d "Pon^ 

peo^? tXit'^LX'^t:;? ^^ *^^^ «^ t^- 

giving his labour so th^^rni^l-.^P^^^y o^ Matt, 
know him; of Ch^on ^5"^*?"^^'^, "^^^h* ^«am to 
subhme if not .^eiy cT^ ?Sfon^f k^"^*^*" *^'°^ the 
Miskin,anxiou.Ui2noSv^o^M.^l™^t««'- of Miss 
that nobody sf^ould sZt^ Hp ^u ^ ' ''^ ^'^' ^^sey. 
Joo. who i^ a flaS^fLtSce h "f f ,°i^^^«« '^^n 
blowing it, why he suppSS^^"* *°^ ^' ^thoui 
the " Progress Arms '^f^'^Lt'ul^u'' °' ^^'"^n to 
feo. The .Anns' won't te bL c^ou^k"^^* '"°"^^' >^°"'" 
ave to extend them tlu«w ™T^ '• "" * "»onth we'll 
^yjj^^p,. «em. throw out a wing at the back 

It was dreadful, it was »]] ^ ^ u 
would have been hltt^<u f ^"^' ^ ^efficient • it 

mtidy and i>leMi„, & h,^?"* ™>re for him than be 
to say. or .CTwiU, h« ^^^ *"> '"^« >« «^t5 

■n the Settlement when h. -» J'''^* » "» error of stavinir 
he caHed on tlTe ^ tZ^"^'^ " "• ^^ 
*» respectful to thrchnilK •"'?• ,"'"«* was not easy to 

«ft of the army to a^to <^1 ^^l"""' « they 



1x8 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



The big dance was coming off, and women helpers could 
not be too many. Elspeth refused. 

" No, thanks ! I know the sort of thing— « collection of 
aU the undesirables in the district and no inquiries made." 

" We don't have the tickets countersigned by the C.O.S., 
if that's what you mean," said Huncote acridly. Brother 
and sister then sulked for three meals. 

Flora was different. " Oh, I'd love to come, it's sweet of 
you, Roger." She put a pointed Uttle hand upon his elbow 
and ogled him. " I love dancing," she said. 

Her brother patted the little hand. "You know, I 
don't promise you a life-guard." 

She laughed: "Roger, dear, even a railway-guard 
would be a blessing in a place Uke this." 

Tliis was inot exactly social zeal, Roger thought, but 
still . . . 

The dance was on a Saturday night in the big lecture- 
room. The forms stood against the walls, and everything 
had been violently washed ; a new text had been added 
to the WiUiam Morris and the Ruskin, reading, " The Peace 
that passeth all Understanding be upon this House," &c. 
The ft* had forgotten the "n" in "understanding,'' 
whi( . 3 very fortunate, for two out of three of the 
help.. J, as Huncote entered the dressing-room, asked him 
whether " the peace that passed all udderstanding," &c. 
He grew rather tired of that joke in the course of the 
evening. 

When he went into the hall the couples were ah«ady 
dancing stiffly to the strains of the Settlement band. It 
was a good band except that there was a piccolo in it, 

" You see," said Miss Underwood, " we had to let the 
piccolo in. It would have been so hard on the poor fellow 
if we hadn't." 

It was not yet warm in the haU, for only twenty couples 
were dancing, and of those over a dozen were boys and 
girls of the people, partnered with enormous self-conscious- 
ness by serious young men from the University and im- 



WAVERING WINGS „ 

^ter sports. But^ al^.^^- ^?^.*^* ^^«™ and 
staid mlrSut ov^^^« tSj*^ *h« hall was a 
They were quite jX^ S^ ^"^f ?^ ^'ridors. 
at twopenJa mo'Sl^.^eS L^^^S l?^^^ 
at box and buttonhole-midnff ar^ , worked at home 
kind, abundantly XwlS^V^fA'^'^""' ^esh-faced 
respectful distS^ w^'th^l'^^^ ^"""^ ^t a little 
shoivboys. an^ver^^flS ^"^ "*^ «<* 
umfonn.anddisinSd^.nnf!^*':.^^^ P"'"^ o^ their 
a boy iout. S^fy^SttlT^^ 7^ anythii^less than 
stiU exclusively monoS^^ ^erlta^r^' ^^^"S^ 
the sexes vet exci-nf ^Ko* .1 "® blending of 

withamixt^'ofsSaction/r"^?^' ^"P' *^er 

The band ba4^^d ri^'^Zf 'T'"'^^"^*^- 
and on to a quaLle Chu^T. ^^ *** "^^zurka 
tc^ether cad^^ arS'^^^ ^ l"? tT''"^' 
organising and Huncote. suf!eS^pa„^of Xnn' -^^ 
ness, was thrust inM th^ „ ^ *^^ ' sell-consaous- 

hl^ed while tebSS'T'sS^'^'jg^"'-'' 
he did not know but onlv itc «.^S^f^' ^^ surname 
The girl was TZi^'^elr ^'v"^'^ They danced, 
well, but HuncotftaeTSe ;ol\ ^™°™'"* ^ ^^s 
and. struggle ashe^.h^ k ^^""^ *° ^y something 
word HilS At kst S h ' '""^^ *^ °"^y o' thf 

tim^oJ^;^^"^^- "O^' I don't think so. not for this 

Huncote paused. Should he talk ahn»* 4i, .- 
year? He felt impelled to aS h^wW L ' T^ °^ 
and remembered iust in tim^Xo* ^ ^^"^ ^o* was. 

gentlemen thafS sSl ^^k ^/'f" ^ ^^^ and 
He was skUful : ^ ' ^^ ^"^ *° ^^^ something. 

dJ^LX.^'" '^ "^'' "^^^^- y- SO out a lot 



X«0 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



" I don't much, I'm in business, you see." 

This was not very infonnative ; he read her £actory-giri, 
whUe she was shop. So they ploughed on. Hilda laugh- 
ing and giggling at nothing, while he talked rather priggishly 
about the dancing classes which the Settlement had been 
running of late months. 

" Oh, I don't need them," said the girl, rather add, and 
Huncote realised that this had been taken as a reflection 
on her dancing. He was glad when it was over. For- 
tunately they did not have to sit out. 

He did not at once begin to dance again, for there had 
been a slight increase in the number of couples. He saw 
Churton, dark and long as a day without caresses, in the 
embrace of a young woman still longer, it seemed, because 
she was thinner; he saw Miss Underwood, very languid 
and negligent, guiding without apparent effort the uncer- 
tain steps of Fred Beesby, the young man who had sorced 
the beak. 

Quite insensibly, as if obeying a class<ustom, he found 
himself clustering with the men, of whom ther« were still 
a good many groups segregated opposite a lot of girb, 
who conversed in shrill undertones and hdd each other's 
hands and waists. He edged nearer and nearer to the 
men, hardly knowing how to begin to talk to them Piatt 
did ; Piatt always talked to the men, for women's sufiiage 
had not yet come in. He envied Piatt, he envied the beam 
upon his legal face, even the reassuring benevolence of 
his forehead. He heard a scrap of a sentence : 

" . . . Easter soon. We'll have to be thinking of 
cncket ; that's a good manly sport." 

George Green, dancing with a red-haired giri over whom 
he hung, rather dose-pressed, threw him as he passed an 
oily wink. 

Several of the young men glanced at Huncote, then osten- 
tatiously turned away. They vfere jolly and chaflBng. as 
no girls were there to make them self-conscious ; he heard 
an argument as to whether one of them preferred ginger 



WAVERIKG WINGS ,„ 

«ant to cast any nasturtium on yoTi • ' ' *" ' 

™«»te pondered over this for some tim. tv- 
young man, who had been wtch^tteShST^K * 

caU me Bert mostly " ^-awweiL Tlwy 

an JflSf"' ** ''°" ""'•" "^ ^•«"- "«.>y yon-r. 

rm^^riS^'?" " °''' *»•' "" - »y*i"S «. big. 

'nie young man grew hostile. -Helninffl If ««i 
people wouldn't heln m f w. kJi • , P"8 ' " owy 

do^. You «nt Sp^i, un M^ r^ ^ '^ P^* 
fi«9H «« ♦u^: ^ .P "P' *"^- Hunoote, you can onlw 
trrad on their feces when they're down * ' ^"" '^ °™y 

Huncote looked at him rather surwised Thi« „» ^ 
party conversation. "«r suipnsed. This was not 

•' Surely." he said. « we don't tread on the peonle's fai^ - 

"No.- said CaldweU ferodouslv as if th^ SH . 

the-sweU-ffaUedhim «t«^ -u *°® presence of 

Bert took no notice, and within a lew sera^feVS; Tn 
»^J»e was bring stat«l to* SLT^JS 
Snf ^-Hmding conve^.i» it made .^Tt^ 

-Charitys a» thing that makes the people be., whrt 



xaa 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



*5^.<Wght to kttn not to btttf. . -n.!. m- ^ 

"Yes, what is it?" 

And yet Honoote could not fix himself • h* ».. l 
tiaed by the iitmic parties bvtl^^^i^'^J^^ 
whom Mmebodv aaid^^S:^^. • ^ ^ *******»«^ *<> 

Un^^dM il «Sr """^^^ '^ **^*^ It was Miss 

quite on their side but also^fwf - S^r^w ^- T 
said, " I've been looking fwyou e^h^* ^"^'^ "^ 
youwe« just goinrfo Slt"^;^^* l^e^S^^ 
c«^ out of the orator. He WusheTviolen^J nT^ 
the soaahst colours." said a whitey^n te?* but^ 
was too overcome to reulv • Thi.«K^ kIi? u- ^l ^^ 
^ nearly b„,ken bS S/ SS'aS'aSSi^on! 
She was doing more ; she was chasing ^e^ h^^Z 
groups and, two by two. leadingSto t£ ™^^*" 



WAVERING WINGS 



•Granted." she n|lWL H»« yo" pardoo." 

He looked at her more closely. 

•m step. Then he said- ^ ^^ *" '"*"'* 

to^'^T. been UUdng to Mr. Caldwel I thtak y^ 

dreaStlS^d'T'shaS^w^''' "*" •^«^- "- «» 

looked at him steadfast rather fer ar.,^ "6" «. mey 
arched brows that mn^I' ^ P^' ™^®^ ^eavy 



»«4 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

»J^ S^i?^ *•* "'^' *® ^^'^ ^a» she. as the last 
peering of the sunset through the wing of duik He t^ 

was so oW. They danced on. and quickly he aslod W 

S:^i£[^^ ^-^"^' - ^' ^« ««- tJ: toon's 

on"^''^"'^ '*v*^''"*^?r'^'y- *"»«". as she trod 
He asked^^whlT "^i ' '^°"'* ««* "^"^ °' * «=hance." 

though h. sh«jd n„rtav.^ wS::^.'^ '™"^- 

Bert CaldwtU. ' *'"'^ »•" ™«"« 

And so. as ttey danced, Miss Groby prattled on some- 

^ S.J ^ "' "" washerv^nan's .,«fc. Mis. Groby 
yoL'thtok*?^ deal o< time to myself ; ttaf, nice, don't 

He was consdons jnst then of her hand in Us which h. 
coold feel musaJar through the cotton glo^ Hel^d • ' 
^ And what d-y«. do with yonrsdf then ? ^JyTt^d 

" Oh, yes, I'm a great reader." 
Huncote hesitated to ask what Kht> t^a k, *. i j 
o^thusiastic, alive to he:,:?f' iJ^' cXT^dt^edl^S 

hIZ"^' *^^ ^l^^^i upon a sto^SwTS 
Huncote. m which there was a guardsman and a kSS^ 
Pnncess. began to tell him the plot^^ ^ 

wJ^d^ "°it t^^ "^ ^' ****^^ *^« ^^" ^ dance 
was done, it had been very much the same, for his new 



WAVERING WINGS ,,5 

the 8Mne land of converution. He roppoMd he wm^ 
t^i^d to the atmosphere. Indeed £^ te^i^ 
«?!' l::^ T^''' ^"^^^^^ were offers S 
tTe '^.^f?^ "^r • ^ •^*" *^«1 once more w^ 
the tie <at rose In a break he had a word with Geoiw 
Srf" • •♦?'!f ^^ *° rehnqmsh his partner, a smaU.^ 
^nlJ^w^^^K^r ^y* »«d • v^ red mTh St 
drooped hke the hp of a lily. The builder, it wsemed 
to Huncote. held the girl too close. Wh« heTT^ 
partner came Green, who sat by her side, had his A<«SZ 

ZPi^^A*^^ *T*' "^^P^S very close to the httteST 
half-buned m pale straight hair. ' 

Green winked at him. "I watched you dandmr Mr 
Uncote. Yer don't give the girls 'arf a cWe^' H^ 
nudg^ him: -Yer take a leaf out of my^^'" ul 
fipired h.s attitude, clearly showing that hil^ C would 
grasp h« i^rtner above the elbow. " The gay fantastic 
eh ? - He hugged the air violently : « Tha^s S^y 

Piee! ^^likeTbiS 'Ir^'' ''' ' ''' ^^^ ^^ 

Huncote turned away disgusted. He could not fix the 

t'^^f ^' ^"l T'^°^ ^* ^« '^'''- When one i^ 
fat one ought not to be white, or if one is one should no^ 
d^ce^ Green was rep^ve just then ; with sweat upon 
his face, he was hke a bladder of lard in hot weather 

It M^ n^y twelve o'clock ; the character of the dance 
^changed No stiffness now and no introducing, but 
I»rtner-«utchmg and guffaws, a haze in the aiTrSkini^ 

mL^K^r"'?**"?""' ^ ^'^'' "^^^ brighter, ha^ 
inore bnUiant and unruly. He danced with two nwre 
girls, ^d a third led him into a lancer set whic^as^ 
thrnf^I^^'f JT"! ^°™ ^^^^ drawing-room kind into 
lfiL^?oby * "^ '^' ^«"^" ^' ^^^ ^«> 

r^^' *^°°* i^ember the next day what he had said : 
nothmgofanymiportance. But it was nice to dance with 



126 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



her again. She smiled at him as he came up to her- 
he had se«i her mouth, so agreeable, he thought, with its 
futafss and its many curves, the Ups parted and upturned, 
showuig dark against the pale honey of her skin. 

His reserve was gone, and somehow all was well He 
joked with Churton ; Piatt looked funny and grandfatherly • 
he even challenged Miss Miskin to a dance, which was ati^ 
terely and fortunately refused him. Yes, there was some- 
thin£ ii the Settlement after all if of so much youth it could 
make so much gaiety. In the refectory a Uttle later, as he 
drank a glass of lemonade with his partner, he saw Miss 
Underwood watching him with a faint, half-ironic smile. 
He smiled back at her rather more broadly than he meant, 
as if he could so smile at aU the world. She was charming 
he thought. ■ Again he had to think of a Hly, or rather of 
a reed, tall slim, a Uttie disdainful She came closer, 
*"iL ^^ ^ ^^*^^°^ ^°^- "Enjoying yourself?" she 

" Rather," he said, suddenly boyish. 

" That's right," said Miss Underwood, comfortably. The 
deep brown eyes seemed veiled as if by the shadow of long 
downcast lashes, and Huncote for a second felt a Uttie too 
young. 

Much later, as he went to sleep, confused tiioughts passed 
through his brain. First, Miss Underwood, just gracious • 
all tiiose people he had seen tiiat night, so young a littie 
gross m tii^ merriment, but ... so merry in their 
gro^ess. He tiiought of tiie young men so brisk, of Miss 
broby and of tiie tender moutii turned back upon tiie pale 
honey of her skin, but much more of tiie Settiement a 
good fairy, antiior of tiie night's delights. Insensibly from 
enthusiasm he passed into dream. 




CHAPTER THE SIXTH 

ANDROMEDA 
§1 

The lecturer droned on amiably. He had analysed 

&rtor Resartus " ; he had been mUdly humoroS^S 

tte pronunciation of Teufelsdrockh ; he had jaired Hun- 

TJl '■^''^V'^ ""^"^ ^* * S"°"P °' ^o^^en! and saying 
that m nuxed company he dared not pureue beyond trou- 
sers the preoccupations of Carlyle. and they had lauched 
senolelylaughed Smoldly. gfoomily. feu'^tSe ligSt'fo; 
^e globes were duty. Feet shifted, and because it had 
ramed a scent of moist clothes and iU-washed bodies rose 

^^'i^'^'^'lu' **°i*"® °' ^^ ^""^^ ^^ near the platfonn 
ooked at the audience, many women, most of thei^^f 

^t ^ / 1* "^^'r^. '^ "^^' artisans rather eager, 
hs ^1 T^l*^^^^^'^ '"^ Spencer.its Darwin^d 
Its John Lubbock. Huncote watched with half-amuse- 

TJ^iJ" ^""T^ ""f ""^^ "^^ '^°^^y ^^ garrotted by a 
cygman collar; he was making notes. He was maldng 
notes nervously, it seemed indiscriminately, as a magpif 
collects spoons. The lecturer said : >»•«» a magpie 

"And if we look upon it broadly enough it is certain that 
genius IS an mfimte capacity for taking pains " 

The strangulated youth made a note 

rrl?^^^*^'",!?"^^'^ °^ ^*° *^^ "^« "f Frederic the 
Great, he hnked up the Prussian king with the heroes 

which should perhaps be worshipped; hedaredtolaS 

'^W shTw^^^:^"^*^•" "^ ^^^^ that 

Stx the feet shifted, and the clothes steamed- the 

young man shifted within the magic circle that mark^ him 

117 



I 



W8 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

♦^?IiJ"''*S^?*'^«**'*"°»- And then a Uttle later 
the lecturer aUuded to Carlyle as the Sage of Chelsea. 

.«.nl^ V^« '^ ^^ secretary of the Mutual Improve- 
ment Soaety He was just a smile for ever and ever He 
had created the lecture society of which was to be bom a 

^l^■^^ -^^J^' ^^°°™^y ^'" ^ «S^*' ^d ^th it the 
misty Ulummations oi the surly old Scotch beast and his 
puny apopIe«es Long before the lecture was over 
Huucote hated tiie man and this accomplice audience 
who were, indeed, making fingent and fictile the rugged^ 
n^ he had once loved. He did not foUow very cE 
what was bemg said, catching a fragment now ^d then 
a gentle regret that the sage -had taken such liberti^ 
with the Kmg-s English." He thought of hmiself wiSS 
this system, ^ese people being loaded with commonplac^ 
f L,^! <»™nonplace absorbing scraps of second-hand 
thought, makmg an idea out of a bit of Carlyle without 
Wg as a corrective, say. a bit of Montaigne. Scraps 
always scraps ; here they were, all of them in St. PanwiS' 
trymg of humanity to make royalties, and actuaUy pJacine 
upon the shoulders of men royal robes while lea^g thern 
Ill-shod. He thought of the work he hadZn^^| S^ 

^^^^^/1J5' '^!f "^^'*^°"' °^ *^« reproduction^ 
the Venus de Milo. before which two young men. thinking 
tt^Ives unobserved had nudged Lh W ^e of 
th«n had said. Very 'ot I " Exactly what Georw Green 
had said 1 It was all wrong ; at leLt nothinT^ rfX" 
and he found himself quoting a scrap of John Sividson : 

Now I fear the light ; 
I shrink from every sight ; 
I see there's nothing right ; 
I hope to die to-night. 

AD solemn. aH turned to stone. The condition of the 
people : petrified or putrified ? Which^ ilt ? a 
revolt seized him. for here was the quality of dlfi^n^ 
be ween the lecture and the dance; there youS^d 
gaiety, coarse perhaps, but yet predous. bei^^r^^ 



ANDROMEDA „. 

^^m tt.„ s„j^„«3. ,e„^ „^ thiUdng^^ 
Kerning they woold know; when he raStered .2^ 

itrj'thtr^ they did not thin., but feinr^c:::^,^ 

*nVl^^ °^ hfe emotion came out soon after, as he talked 
to Churton. The lecturer was being tha^k«^ Lal^ 
young man. who by this looked like a^saX SlI^ if. 

S^"t^:l'^ir^^ ' "t ^^ -emoSUlu^SS^Sa? 
tne teue university is a coUection of books. 

How did you like it ? " asked Churton, veiy serious. 
Huncote laughed. « Fudge." he said. ' "^ ^"*»"s. 

J?'T"j2*:f^ '^^V'^ »»^ ey^trows. -Well 
wen he said, a good eighteenth-century word a sS 
^^achronism. 'Rubbish' would have a^^ to' 4l£ 

^LSs"^ hann. wiU scatter tST^i^e^i^J^b^- 

Pleased?" said Huncote. bitterh "r:«^ u 
Churton. you d«i't think wi'iS^tiig any^^'^:!"' 
^e. givmg these people scraps and ta^li^T*^J 

•'^rRX -^^^T"' i^5^ th^n^^s^'wiS; 

seewhSlS^kriil' iTr'^y *^^^"' *^* ^<^'t you 
see wnat I m dnymg at ? I mean what's the good of ri JSia 

them the whole thing or give them nothing ThL J^IZ 
ony make them smug." He laughed. "T c^^ar^'S 
of them quoting a tag next week when the boiler^o^ ,^„5 
th. w °* ^ university." said Churton, loftily^and 
the lecturer is not an encydopjBdia- ^' ^ 

" I'd want to be one," said Huncote. 

9 



130 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

fh.?r°" *^^\^ ^ eloquent look, a look so eloquent 

fanlt?^/^?*^!^''' ^°^^ "^•" ^'^ ^^^' "the P-eatest of 
" Ae S^fof °"'"«"' °^ "'°"' ^'" ^^ ^^^^y ^ded, 

Huncote grew vicious : 

"Anyhow, Carlyle cribbed that from Pliny" 

mnLrr *^ ^""^ °'°"''"*' ^^ there were other acid 
SZn.? V. *^™e-moments of weariness, moments when 
Huncote whose seremty was gone, lost his temper with the 

thU f ''" ""Tj*'" °^ ^°"^ ^^' ^d told one of 
them that one could not see Christ for their crosses ; there 

^S/^T"^- hotter moment still to come when the last 
scale of illusion feU from George Green. 

In tiiose diiy^ there was a penny weekly, called the 
Jdly Roger, which made it its business to unearth the 
fh.T J^ buned corpses of scandals and shamelessly expose 
«!^w ^' fhhc eye. A justice of the peace could^not 

mJitlr K ^r '^°"'^ ^ ^^°*' °^ ^ ^^t gi^l have ^ 

Uegitimate baby, or a welsher change his addrL. without 

the My Roger armmg for an expedition. Having lost 

Zn T^fZr'"''''''' ^y ^^^^°^' '' t-"ed its ftten! 
, the Settlements ; its commissioners joined the 

Stment' T'^"" ""^^ ^^ °' *^^ Passmore-Efward^ 
^^.nf;!, r""- ?' •^''^^-y ^''^'^ had to wash its 
hands of them, for no fault could be found there. But 
after gancmg at the Leysian Mission, they discovered 
^methmg m the St. Panwich Lay Settlement.^ TlTsome 

f^^^e'^^k? "" ' '""' "^''^ "^"^^ °^^^^ ^^ P'^-^d 



Isn't George 
GREEN ? 

(I don't think !) 






ANDROMEDA 

pe gist of the article was in one of its paragraphs •- 

that Ut if itd^^I^'t^t^^.^'.^SiSwanted 
Fitzallan said to S o^er'^ul^i'-*; ^^ ^ J'on 

We ve got to have that land. EhTS?' H^w ^'^' 
It ? ' And would you believe it ^ w ^°Y *^ ^ ««* 
Guardians said : 'lla^itto^^J 'i^** """^ °* the other 
do it; TT,ey did ^s Gui^ '°^' ""'"^^ '^'" 
brother-in-law. Geo ge^L^rr^ ^^"j i^O"g to his 
ruptible sea) Gr^en ^jf^^^d^"' ff,^^ George (incor- 
no interest in it ' TW „ V ^ ° * ^^°"« to me, IVe 

ings on behalf oH SiSlr who If "^ "^ "^ '^'^^^■ 
employed by George rv^rfiT r^ w°* ^^'^^ ^^ "^t 
-ntractor ^ho woiK^^^^^^^f J5^P^"3?^°yf »>y a 
strange is the association w ^"®^J^,d? Smgular and 

GuarL«,^e1SoXr-tl^*^^J?' '^*^ ^<J oi 

G<^ir^%^eS^SStlutSCa^e^ f^^' 
was wanted by the BoarH i,o!i ^ • ^®' ^*^ ^s it 

Pnoe out of a gulJible Bo^ nfr™ j-^^* ?" """^ed 
o£ his brother-iijaw fw S '^f^ ««" «» help 

"My dear fellow," said Piatt "ifc «ii 
you can't prevent Mrs cLn f!!' -^ "^^^ ^«"' ^ut 

having buiSL^nm^p^'^" ''°"' °^«^ ^^^ ^^ from 

qJte w'l?'!;^s*S^,Tl^'»^""~*^^ ™^^^^'- >- W 

do;^ ^^^e^y^t Shir^ '?^' " "^ "^ -- 
it. and let these 1I..W Ti. ^V. ^''^ "y word for 

■»al" uniJeS.^ '^' "^ *" *»"»*' ^ey oiUy 



133 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

It passed through Huncote's mind that Georee Green 
was a prominent member of Piatt's election^^lT 
that rumour caUed Green a relentl«s ei^^^^^^ 
Goj^ ever smce she had ref-ased him the an^ctfor 

MsWn^.1. * ^'u * "^^ vote.monger. He tried Miss 
MKlan. but found her quite indifferent, as was also Afc 
Ramsey He caught them both together at thTS 
sewmg class. "I don't v>f u,h. ♦ ♦»,» x \.T ■ '^ 
eo;^ M-^c- ,. ? - ^ ^^^ *"^ trouble is about" 
said Miss Miskm. fixing him with her reptile eye "I've 
got some land of my own." ^' 

« T'i ^'\ ^ ^^^'^ ^^"* ^*'" ^d Mrs. Ramsey. 

I ve got too much to look after." She flung a dSr 

look at the sewipg-dass which at that momenT^s ^. 

fally fddmg u^ Its work and casting from under its 3^£ 

s^^f-fS'*^"°~*!- "Anyhow. Mr. H^c^ 
Ihl 2 ' r?"*.'T' '"''* *^^ '«^ roen to come into 
the class. Huncote flushed as if he were the white^^r 
Mrs. Ramsey evidently saw in him «-waver 

It was no good, they did not care. Even Georee Green 
^d not care. He did not speak of the sS^J^T 
mdeed^^ only once was he direct, and then he said ; ' 

if, Jv/7 '"''^ ^' '^"~**'' »* *>"'* '^ me. Fact is 
Its a bit of an ad. for the firm. Only wants a hit o'mo^' 
courage, that's aU it wants." -«« a mi o moral 

Huncote could have laughed, but he was sickened 
I^tlesrfy he went on with the work w^r^S 
hmi and out of which it was so difficult to get witttoSf 
that trained boys and girls on leaving ^^^^^ 
dubs under Royal patronage. hT even attended 
drawing-room meeting, where there was a K.C and £b 
ex-Lady Mayoress, to discuss: "Where will tu^e^ 
Eternity?" Truly a bmiiing question. 5^" ^P^^^^ 

He found himself walking very fast up Crapp's Lane 

glowed hke dead suns. " I must go." he tiwurfT^ 
must go." He could not miderstand^e qL^TuJ 



ANDROMEDA ,.„ 

people, the limits of their activities the Mr^. . 
their enthusiasms He r/^nM^V '. <"«ctions of 

could mew^* tw ^?^,"°f «»<fe«tand that they 

they had Tmf intT^JTSE' Sfvtr "' *^* 
energy, while finer folk had^ir,l7 ^^ ^^eoxtive 
impulses, that Piatt thm,Jtf f ^ , ^ *"^ uncertain 

Sennon «; the jCJX^^ *^» «"»«^ to tta 

that, he should tain^ck^T™^ '^"^ "' >"»« "l" 

and t's no gcnxi asking the S^^ " S'^Si '^• 
Ife Adn-t give him to you meaning tiSttT^L h "' • 

s s:."^Se"FiStL*f '"Vv^^^ "-^o % 

§2 

"And didn't that do you any good ? » a<;lrM tu 

He *ook hi, head 'fo, a'nS^^ £lL^Tm 



»34 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

Ltoty go™ she was like a amvolvuC %Tlf^ 
ImtST"^ "* "^ "^ "*<' «■> '" '»« of ^ 

Theresa opened her mouth to sav • " And u,h^* ^^ 
know ahniif i>^« D » u X .. . . " ' ^^"^ What do you 
»Qow about Pan ? but. thinking it too personal, she 

Hnn ^ ^'*"i;"f * ^"^^ y°"^ h°Pe from etWcs ? - 
Huncote nodded: "Yes. that's about it. a^d it looks 

-T« nT^L!Sl.'^'u'y save place to an^aiTTmiserr 

U^r^Lf^v w^i"?'?"^- "Nogood^^ss 
uuciwooa, reauy. were not domg anything I mnc* 

givort up. I don't know what I can doTSd" ^* 
shJ^4^:f^:;.^"°"^- ^^^ ^"'^^"^y ^°^^°t that 
«.th»r^/ --e^ W\fd^"„^^ ^ 
♦hen quickly drew it back, glad that he had not ^1J' 
^v rl'."? ^°^«^ ^hy. soiry he h^not- ^v 

the^ in the ZZiZ ^^u^S^t^" JT 
things worse, doesn't it?- That makes 

"And what if they do cet worse?* ^^ ♦v 
man. "What if ♦»». cTxli ^"®' cned the young 

we are. trying to teach wotoea to look 



ANDROMEDA i„ 

<iay in a l4^ w^ !55"* *"« ,» '^ '^ horn- 
no place to go but tte Z^ 1^^^, "" '^ "^ and 

them with paragraphs riwn*S^ A ^P^" ^^^^ ^^<J 
nip«. Mentr^^^^' !! ? ^*^'" *^^ ^^'''* °^ "cental 

children the ojundlt fL °"^^u *^*- ^"^^ ** the 

decency to staS^ht ^ btlLt^i^'e."!. ^^^"'* *^« 
education; you mustn't 1? • ^^ *^^y ^^^^ the 

wouldn t io to l^^tl^^"'" u'^''' P"«"t«- It 
pocket, would it ? » "P"""" "^ *^« ^°^J^g Iran's 

moved bj his '4n " L irSr th^!."'^ .P'*^"^' 
have that twopence than „^ ? "^ *?** ^^^^ shouldn't 

and---a^^rraf^\^^e"'vo?^ "^,11** ^"^ P"^' 
Ruskin ? • *^ ^ voice— become unfit for 

But Huncote was not to be tumwl « t*- u- j « , 

.s^crro^s:-.t'3?'S^5F*»'^ 

it's not many of those we eer^M i .?^ '*"^" 6^^' 

Keep the chair dirtv for av*^ «^j t VT^ cover. w« 
so ttat aU may io2k ^^^i5"^ wash that loose cover 



II 



'i 



;r| 



i 



> by encouraging! 



ttortality.' 






136 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

^Sorely . . .- 

" Yes. yes, we do encourage infantile mortalitv with 
our low w^ and our overcrowding and our labour for 
mothers. But we're not going tol^ about tST^J- 
going to talk about proviSg work. Work I 11,^^^ 
no hujg but work in the wo^ it's less work we^t 
not more; we want time to think. And then you 3e 
«id talk to me of em«)bling the people and ^g thS 
id^ and aU that «,rt of rot. thVsJrt of roTHilk^ 
that aU our class talks of with its long, gabbling toncue 
SL^o "^'^- ^**' ^* eive them I^'tLs^ ^e 
Bo^ow. . and pictures. Pictures I Look at this r He 
took up from the office-table a little list and read rt^ 
Here's the list from the picturenlealer : 
Lady of Shalott. 5 do«. 
Beata Beatrix. | doz. 
Beatitude is no catch in St Panwich, you soe 

Return of Persephone. 7 doz. 
l^, yon. it's stifling. Pictures, lectures, gymnastics. 

Theresa came a Uttle nearer, laid upon the desk verv 
long, rather thin hands, and bent to>^ds himtritS 
any amusement m her soft eyes : " They wouldn't^^y 
better, would they, without those thLgs ? Aren't we 
brmgmg mto their lives just that somSLg ^^ ^ 

Xrt't^'^*'^.^* ^ «^ can^Ieln^ 
Aren t we showmg them what they might get to ? civin^ 
them a taste for it so that they be Sl^hriheygfutl 
R s^m^any miles to Babylon, but you can get there ;«« 

TS^T^f'l^^ his h^ so miserably that for a moment 
:n^eresa felt hke an old woman watching a Kttle fe^S 

SJJei'* ^"^ ^ "^'* ^ ^^^« bLketlTs^elS 

for ^^' " ^u'^' " "^ '^'^ ^^ ^^^^ it's too cariy 
for art. Its wages now, food, privacy, soap secu^- 

that's what they want Leisure ^;peSyrS;e1SS^.' 



ANDROMEDA 



Arif'. ^- ^''„' '*'™'" ™"«» munnutwi 
J tatt/ "^' ""°~" "id : " Y«. . visioo of br«d 

^^^ wf ^ ^^ i^" P^«^ <="« o« a Chubb:? 

seo^taty. who was a Radical. beUeved in Dickens Z 

^ m^bei^hxp had geological and bota^cal aspira 

S^ed ^H '°"*^u?^ "^y "^^^'^^^'^ ^h° merely 
^ted 2>me«ung agreeable to do on Saturday after- 

?Z^\h '*'^^' *^^' '^ " performing a task. Hu^cote 
jomed the noisy party at Maiylebone. There were ^S! 
jpinsters who in another wik of life wodd ^vr^^ 
M«s Miskms; there were a few elderly clerte ra^^ 

aome of these had notebooks, and there was a fiv«. 
shJhng kodak in the party. A Curate Sd got^ nol^t 
quite knew how. or to whom he belonged. HmTcotTg^w 
av^e of hmi as an anxious figure on the pl^n^^T 
before the tram started, a mass of distressed ,^gendS iho 
went about asking for his cousin and finally cE toto 

,^rTf^ ^ ^^''^^ rather miserably with Churton 

heeSS tL^^^H^"' ^"^'^ membeJwho triS to ^ 
cheerful though m the presence of the great. But little 
by httle. as London passed away into Xl^d. where h^ 

SSf drth*°°^ "^ "?i"^*^ '^'^' dott^ aL" 
of B,?Si«^ u" ""^ ^"'"^ ^*° th« «>«• roUing plain 
of Buckmghamshu^. a weight fell from his shouW^ 

Thesun. which in London had been fair, was here Tc^n: 
queror He felt a new elation as he stepped out wiSi 
his party along the «)ad which rises swift frl ^e ^ 



n 






»38 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

The spmstera. at least those who Vere not m^^ Kv 
contemporary gallants fonn*^ lini- J!? P^V"®'^. ^V 
exH*AH ♦all, TiT^ lormea UtUe groups for quick. 

tTon whnt^h * ^^^ethearts. too. were finding isoS 
tionwhde he youngest girls, recruited from the fewhoo 
or the pjckle factory, were already growing rowdv^?f 

It Jr^^r^.*^^ "^'^ experieS^ones who ^S 
^hllfont'sf Gifes^X'^"^*- !!«^-». - ^ey'enteT^' 
out of hAnA u ^* I'T^^'" ^*^ts ^«e getting 

which they stoimed in defiance of its cusKxiiim a^ tf' 

^S^obstS^,^'" ^'^O'' ™» '»own. II. c«„2 

offldab; he^ft, «^7?^ "iistresshilly at the 
Rill jS -^ WM the sort of ctirate of whom FiKhtinir 
^^ ^"S^- ':"?<>'«« as if he had b.^^ 

Ee^'"oft^t^"r:t;T;'^ •*' ^«'^ *" **• 
f hf!'l.T ™*«'^«'- M«l» later only was it discovered 
^'td AB^a^" '«' «"»« platfoni and b^^ 

Until th»n «i,,Ti^ remorseful shadow. • 

hadatl^A^JSr?""'"^^™"''''- Honcot. 



ANDROMEDA ,39 

jwarmiiig with congregated roses above equally swarmin* 
black curls. And as they climbed ove/r^stil^^S 

quite a long conversation with Hilda, who reinemhi.r»^ 
her dance partner better than he ^i her. Th^ h^ 
gone side by side through the fields while Sida told Wm 
ajong.^ long story about a girl who had bo^wS he" 

mvl7*r! '^^^* ^'"**"' ^* ^"'* that She borrowed 
my hat that mattered, it was what she said " 

- J^J;^;.did.she say ? » asked Huncote. rather distrait. 

But I ve just been tellin' you." said HUda. aggrieved 

Its so comphcated." said Huncote. 8S"evea. 

Don't see it is." said Hilda, tartly. " That Millv 

don t you understand. I lent her the hat to Jo and ^ 

her people at Chigwell. and her sister says to hfr ' Tha^ 

a dandy hat you've got. MUly.' and MiUy sayj '• y^'^J 

aan t bad. I got it for one-and-eleven.' She'd got a ne^e 

seeing^I^paid e.ght-and-six-saved it up. too. af thre^^^'J 

-I don't sw how . . .- munnured Huncote. 

h,H TI^ ^y ".°'' ^^y exasperated. especiaUy as she 
had shpped on a furrow and hurt her ankle ^ 

No, of corse, a man wouldn't." She was for » mn«,««* 
^Ijetting the stupendous difference ^t^ ^* r^^' 
Mdlys sister, she meets me out with a gentleman friend^^ 
Sitr '^m^t\'^' «f>?; 'HaUo. you've born,wed MiU/s 

s^e L %l m""" *• } t'^/ ^^' ^y^' • Yes. you haJe, 
snesays. No, I says, ' she borrowed it from me.' 'Ah' 

eteven^Jin'r:/ TV*^^*'' *^^ °»« ^^* «>"* one^i 
eleven^ am t it ? Looks it, too. don't it ? ' And. would 

It was some time before they caught up the rest of the 






140 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

party ; stiU HUda went on rairine about th*. «„v- t u . 

In fhT JJ^ J***^ °"^*^ °^ «»« rising meadovT^ 
♦n ^i$5 '^' ""^^'^ '°' ^ ™°"^«»t the party W c^^^ted 
to deade upon a direction, the scattering b^^^ 
They were to circle the wood anH ♦».-« ^^^ ^^°* 

to be lack at Chalf.^ S^^es^h^a^^^f ^'^^ S "^ 
five o'clock be sp«d at the T'bSA^*^."":;^'' f 
was associated with two yomiB menAll th™. „ ! ■??" 
from an elder t,ee and SSg ofht^rlSt: 
third yonng man whistled " Sail Away " Itwf ;J!fZ; 
m the wood, still alight with JoCli,g l^aT^°S 
everywhere with thin golden duftsVS^k?'' 3*^"' 
could be glimpsed thn.^ tte ta« • 2^ ^d in ^^"^ 
cote threnri, fail h^^f^y^^^^. ''^.H™- 
5^ swiri as a nymph ^ AuSi^"' XsS' 
*>>ly they came upon three cirls two ofrtL i 
Hnncote only by s^t. and S toby tS ^ ^ 

^e^ With oiej .t'gS. ".^tS^^to-Sk"^ 
bicycles. Some way behind him he heard uDon the7«.? 

•orjyin^hnt httle as ."t^^'^^^Zt 
" It's nice here," she said. 

faJrhi^if ^;t "^?^kj^.r ""y*^ it* »" 
=a^^,f^.'t^.£3:^ij 

one doesn't wear gloves in the country " ^" ''^' 

She looked at him a little distrustfoUy. as if she felt 



ANDROMEDA j^ 

them int7si^andl^^^,?°^«^ ?"* *« had forted 
ing to taoer • th^ fL ^f^' '^'^ ^«^*^ ^^nds. tend- 

« P/o" often come on these expeditions ? " 

thenT' ^ ''^ ^"^ y'^'^S; I was only eighteen 

shJ^l ^^'' "^^ """*=°*«' ^h« felt absurdly fatherlv » 
she^ so young and he felt so old. "Of Ju,^!^^^^ 

af«JJ H^' ^^"^ ^*''' ^^ Mi^ Groby, quiddv as if 
^^d Himcote ^ going to critidse her. ^- mS^« 

^Sen^^>rt' ' tef "^'^f y^'^ "^ know wK 
J^n next. That s true, don't you think ? • 



142 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

^^^1 Groby looked at him with large admmnir eves 
She thought him splendid, so taU and lonSfa^l^d 

vouthfo^' ^t' ?;* ^ °^^' '■^ge^g instinct, h^f. 
e;^Ucf^-^'^''' °"'^ ^^^ -^= "Good 'word. 

s. ^tK£ T^ r ^i rde-noS r^^ 

2:^:y'^^\^^^l^^n together. She prat ted on^ 
about her mother, for the subject seemed to fire her Ihout 
her mother of whom a picture slowly grew up^wa^ work 
ing. jt seemed, and always thin^ o^the^fd^^s Z^ 

mtie ^S.: ^T'' °' ^"''^S °"« '^P '■« '^ when one^ 
S!!^ 1* JS'.*^'"''?^ g"^"^ *l"i*« sentimental as Mr Grobv 
ft firiT? '^'h^ *^! ""^'^ °^ '"^"^^^^ "nfailinglyTayingt J 

hihYn L,TT """~*° *^°"ght it rather wondeS^ 
he had still to learn what the mother means among the^r' 
where tte father is so often drunk and aiwa^^ oioC' 
heavy, threatening; he thought Mrs. Groby^^W^' 
Groby. instead of understanding that she repJLJSed^ 
JJbe^mo^hers of all the young girls such as the J^o^whom 

He asked questions. 

"What do I do? Oh. all sorts of things. Mother takes 

?Z\ " ]ff • -yhow. I've plenty t^ do. ' And TjZ 
Ive to help mother a bit with Muriel and Perc^ S 
my ^otii^ and sister, you know." she prated oi ^he 
had little to say of Muriel, who would soon leav^^hST 
but Perce v^ evoked as a boy already agr^abl^rS ! 
He's a corf drop." said Miss Groby. '^^^^^y ""^^ • 

hhI?*^'^* °° ^"^^y *^°"g^ th« wood. and. little bv 
bttle. Huncote was led into the Grobys' home. He heaS 



of the father, a stone 



ANDROMEDA 



143 

~»^ «c was big and ^"^JfJ^LT "^'^ ^^« 
more clearly as the rake th^ u / ^^ ^*«=e ^ame up 
recently had a bad niS^^ar^L^'L^""^ "'^^ *h^* Perce 
It seemed, was quiteTLdv Hr^ i^""^' ^^^ *^"riel. 
home, three iJms inPaS'^ p ^^^^ "^'^^^ °^ ^^^ ^maU 
and the father l^U/i^^he^^°^' °^ ^f^^ ^^^^^ "^^^^S 
and hurried to sch^S' He tSK^:' r'^^""^^" '^ 
knees, swishing the floor withTw^t ™^" Groby upon her 
he was sure, were lar^e ar^li !, ^^ *° hands which 
Miss Groby 7^ Sn^ thT^fi^^^^^" «« ™aginS 
dimly, her'^pleasirr^! S.esS"oni'?' ^^ ^^-".^ore 
him easily enough. There c2uS>^ u^ ' ^^^ answered 
slowly walked round the w^ k^„"° '^^"^ ^^^ as they 
path of beaten earth b^^J -^P""! '*"'*^y t° the litul 
cuckoo flowers aTiere Ind fh' °^. ^^^^ ^^^ ""any 
bluebells. The Z w^w^*^^!; "^ ^'°°^^' a few 
cool wind, like the b^h^' ^*^ "^""^ freshness; a 
softly on their faces. "Te 1 bv'h— i^ ^'^^' P^^y^ 
freely to him of hefconcmis^L L^' ''^'' ^^° *^^^«i «> 
was not pretending, notl^t 7^ ^" "P°" ^' ^°^ ^he 
plot of a dnema^iry to^: . ^t Tl 'f^^ *^ the 

^"SHmn^^- ^^^^^^^ "^ 

Soci^s, and ins^V^wThTttt *'^ .'"" ^^""^ 
^itherewasahnk. He'^haSToS rtiL "^-""^ *^^ 
to many him. aren't you ? » bSs ^^u ' ^.""""'^Soing 
ft^m pale oUve to a criLon dusk Hun. ^ \'^'' P^^^ 
been clumsy, so he said • « i^ r "^<^ote knew he had 

" Oh. it d^^ Wter - S5V T^*?'* *° ^^^« ^«1'' 
"but we're not thinl^fof Zt Bert .n*?^' ^'^ ^*^*^^y' 
hmi such a long time we°re s^r'h n^^^^i"" ' ^'^^ ^o^n 

Huncote unde^Sd J! h»J ?/^i^f"^' you see." 
Panwich to have h^' Mu^^*^ ^'l^ ^°"fi^ enough in St 
didnotconce^l^'j/if:,^-"^-^/^^^^^^ It 
' " ^^*y®d m his mmd as typical. 



: 3 



il 



! t| 



144 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

SJ^'""^*^!* ?~*|y ' ^ ^"^ *»^y *^« P«>Ple. ^ people 
who smned to be always working except when they^nade 
meny ; the people were like youth, erode perhaps, coaree 
veiy often, sometimes selfish because they were so voune 
l^cause man unspoiled by civilisation had no ethical 
Ideas He thought; "No. no complications, no ideas 
about lehgion. just acceptance; no ideas about art and 
pohtics no damned ideas of any kind. Yet we must give 
them ideas. I suppose." ^ 

Mi^ Groby walked by his side. sUent now. She had 
picked some bluebells, and was trying to bind them 
together with a stalk of grass. She seemed so childish 
hke her own people. Huncote flung her a sidelong 
gknce : Yes a child with no ideas, no theories, no cora^ 
phcations. Ideals? Perhaps. Or must not we. whom 
fortune hw favoured, give them ideals ? " But suddenly 
he felt a^ed : " Who was it who should give them 
Ideals? The Platts and the Miss Miskins of this world ? 
Or even he?" He was Pharisee enough to think" even" 
such as he. a man of blind rebeUions and feeble habits. 
He spoke aloud ; « Oh. rot I It's not ideals we're giving 
them. It s conventions. They've got conventions of thSr 
own. and aU were doing is to give them the conventions 
of another class 1 
" Beg pardon ? * said Miss Groby. 
He stared, suddenly aware of her. " Oh." he said " I 
was only talking to myself : excuse me." 

Bliss Groby was on the point of asking him whether he 
was often taken that way. but. as if something of his 
emotion had passed into her. she remained silent. Swiftly 
as the plant rises from the little seed in the fakir's pot a 
bond more human, less inteUectual foimed between them 
because he had thought of her as capable of an ideal be- 
cause she had caught him in a queer personal habit. With- 
out purpose they stopped. They were not self^ionscious 
now. though they did not understand each other at aU 
but they were willing to do without understanding 



ANDROMEDA ^ 

With ivy and br^wi t'edjed ^^^.f , ^^^^ «^°- 
of big trees. It was a faiSr r7 *^r ^f<^y»g tninks 
moist hollow, and aU roun^ ^ke S^l*^' J^' ^^^' 
trunks of trees that were dark !£??^1,*^* ^^P»***ed 
giants. The light fell^anflh ^ ' v^^^ ^^« stunted 
upon their chefkspS^^emshLeS^ ^"^' '"^"g 
where the sun touchS the ' rr« T'u ?^ 'P^- ^nd 
golden as a pomegraSte <S f '.^f' ** ^^ "«=h and 

SaTS S^S^ -nder§^.\rm!^«3- 

at S'sk;. S^sSnTd t Zl^tZ T "^ ^^^ 
her broad shoulders aSdW?. ? ^^^.^ *^«' with 
^pe that was ^^5^4 a^hlet^s ♦.'"f' *** ^ ^ 
relieved her breadth ti^Tf w ^' *^® ^°°g anns that 
of her. Ske'^;^^^^^^t,^'^^;f^intu^ 
began to know her : toe h^w M!TI;^^y ^^^' he 
shadows in its wavi the wSTr. Sf^ ^ ^*^ brown 
languid darkness ^ftot'b'^ll^^L^ "^"""^ '^^ *^« 
straight. smaU with sensitivrif nS" °<»e was so 

•nostrils. But then he l^ed «f », ''^ well-moulded 
pointed chin that bra^deni1„HH f "f**"*^ °^^ ^^^Jittle 
mouth fuU of curvTwrtol^^y *^ "^^* ^^ 1*^^*' the 
of appeal. She^^'^^^^^^^'^^^P^^dan^ 

once done, for an SSl ^J?^ ^ ^^ ^^ ^ 
he might achieve. ^^S'L?""^ ^^^ Perhaps 
they stood so in the lkh?Sh ? *^ "^ ««"«• ^^ ^ 
in colour, they werelol^^? f^^.^^"^*"* S^w deeper 



II 



they had heard other 



10 



voices 



Mfi THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

'°?®i^* Now there were none. She grew self-consdoo^ 
and, because self-conscious, afraid. 

" We'd better be getting on." she said. 

Huncote too awoke : " Yes, I s'pose we ought • we'd 
better go back, but don't let's go back the same way 
ms cut across to the right and then beat back." 

" I don't mind," said Miss Groby, as if willing to be 
commanded. -6 *" "« 

They turned into the wood that was a Uttle thicker 
beyond the sleepy hollow, under o^ks which had been 
spared They were natural and young again, and they 
laughed when Huncote raised sweeping branches so that 
she might pass and sheltered her with his body from a bush 
of blackthorn. They did not feel it incongruous, either 
of them, that he, the deUcate one, the genUeman, should 
mterpose that over-tended body between the blackthorn 
and her capable sturdiness. For a long time they went 
hke this untU they turned again towards the right alonir 
yet another path that seemed to lead towards Chalfont St 
Giles. They foUowed it for a long time along its windings, 
through hollows where the leaves of the dead autumnSt 
sweet and old. But Miss Groby cried out when suddenly 
It brought them back to the hoUow that slept deeper as the 
commg twilight fell dim. r i^ « ujo 

" Oh ! " she cried, " why. we've got right back I " 

Indeed, they had come back to the place where for a 
moment weeping Andromeda had stood beseeching in the 
*™'^u » *^* moment did not recur to Miss Groby. 

Oh she cried, "we'll be so late. We must go back 
the other way. Oh, what shall we do ? " 

-ItTl be all right," said Huncote; "it can't be much 
more than half an hour from here." 

-Oh, I'm sure it's more," said Miss Groby, "we must 
hurry. And she walked ahead along the path venr 
qmckly, Huncote apologising too profusely, for he was 
wnbarrassed. As they went, unable to talk because Miss 
Groby was too preoccupied, she thought revengeful 



f 



ANDROMEDA 
thoughts. She knew what ♦!,* /.♦».. ,. '^' 

they got back. -It wouM ^^^^J"^ ^^ ^^ 
-if we'd found the otto » ^^*' '^'^ «^"«* 

woSHy they I^irth ""' ,^^ «-* t^« P^e 
did not C\^ tho^hte'^^^ ? f^' »>^ 
did not n^se her ^^o^ ^ S SV%*''^ ' ^« 
motives. H she^ud spSSn aloudT' ^u*'^^' °' ^'^ 
" It's aU very S b^fh^' ** *"?. '^^'^'^ ^^ heard : 
If there isnT7i:S'^^ ^^^ tt^'^ ^T'.^^^ 
the ease had gone and the naiw ti^ ?.^?- ^ 

^ no longer iU»drom«b.5^nSdteK^^- ^^ 
fearful, rigid younff rirl of fhT « • ' , *^® puntanical, 

d^at.andasifinan^c'Set'^fL^ 

sairHe'^ai'cJJSSLSs*^ ^ "^*^« -» 
nudging ea^ oS^f rf !^^ sniggenng and of coupies 

not understandt^n MM?^*?" i?^^ *^* ^« did 
hke a young ^ X^e^^4"S ''"^V'^* 
him with pink chin uplifted Tn5r'*i^? ^^^^^ ^on> 
aglow with the mem?^ whiles „^ ^^-^ ** ^* 
success of the ramble^from rte J^^^i^^ «»e 
^ew. He had been happ^ but ^TZTL ^""^ °' 
Because he had been n^^Uu u Tt. °*** ^°w why. 
early for him to'S^Xn?';i«^"^t; it .^ ti 

near the earth maiden. Then S ^JT' ^" .^^ ^^ 

somebody questioned him ft ^ ttT.'^T^'^ *^* 
membered. « was the curate. He re- 

.n'-'te Sr ""°^ '° ""^ " *«-' ««enKx», after 

whirf'e:^ "^r^25' '"""^y' '"-«»»* <l«ite 

my cousfa wiU^s.^ *" ' '™'* "J"* 



i 



X4» 



THE STRANGERS* WEDDING 



" Let me see," said Hunoote, " she belongs to the Society 
for the Revival of Mysticism, doesn't she ? * 

" Yes," said the curate, full of his sin of omission. " I 
don't know what she'll say. You see, the society's been 
influenced by the Irish revival, and we were to go to 
Rickmansworth Woods to try and find fairies." 

Half an hour later, at Marylebone, it was he who stopped 
the 'bus for Miss Groby and a girl frit \d. As they drove 
ofi his heart was delighted. Miss Groby had the inside 
comer seat ; it was dark, and the lamp just above her 
head brought out her dusky beauty. As the 'bus moved 
she smiled, and he saw a quality he had not known befcve 
in the softness of her sidelong look. 



h, 



PART THE SECOND 

LEAVES OF YGGDRASIL 



To morowe ye shal on hunting fare. 

And ryde, my doughter, in a chare i 

It shal be covered with velvet reede. 

And clothes of fyne golde al about your hed. 

With damske white and asure blewe, 

Wei dyapred with lyllyes newe. 

ir*# Squytr of Low Degre. 






! 



CHAPTER THE FIRST 

THERESA 

Si 

??^!S!?*fi.^?**^*^v''"*«^* *^°^^ *^« PJP« of June. 
TTie people that once had been gtey with di^t^d Lui- 

ness went hght as to the dance. In London June had 
come without youth, had come as June does in ci^ 
mature as a beloved courtesan and yet beautiful. It 
was London June and the fubess of summer, the spring 
foigot.- June notous. June flower-grown. June ignorant 
of meadows flecked with white and madder daisiesTW 
tuous. swanky London June, fashionable even in the sIuim 
opident June crowned with crimson poppies. June smart 
with m her buttonhole a golden carnation or. more auda- 
aous. the vivid velvety quills of a dahlia. And the June 
peo^ every y^ bom. that every year die as again the 
fog »Us were there ; the men lighter clad, a few of them 
alrwdy healthily browning ; the women flushed like those 
white poppies that blush when the sun kisses them. A 
true heat already in the air and the warm scents of summer, 
of earth, of leather, of man. of aU things from which the 
sun draws their essence. From human creaturtjs it drew 
It too. and Huncote felt it as aU men. He was Ughter 
he was gayer, and he beUeved in the things which at 
bottom he knew were untrue ; so he was happy. Because 

♦L!^^^^^*'* T^^ "^^"^ ^PPy' ^-^"se he loved 
them bettCT they learnt to love him. They had begun 
to know him at last in St. Panwich. or perhaps iPSas 
fte dimmer that served him as a naturalisation certificate 
bt Panwich seemed to have decided to overtook what 
It did not hke-liis slight stiffness, his hesitations, and 

151 



153 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

^^ ^?°f ^«ntable silences during which St. Panwich 
knew that Huncote was getting at it St. Panwidi fwro^ 

haTbeen aS!S 'f *^* :^"^ ^""«''' where w'^en 
jaa been adnutted for good after a final conflict with 

♦T 1' K?*' '^°"*^''""* ** **• °«* «ali^ that a few of 
the s^htly avilised (that is to say^tlemented^^en 
had learnt to prefer non-alcohoHcs in the summer It 
was a cunous evening, for the barmaid. stiU^^uble 
w^ heard to remark to a man who lint ov^^ b« 
a^dwh«peredtoher:''Nofearr Huncote ^^o^ 
to know wha the man had whispered; he neverT3 
out. Obviously a new wind blew over the pladd w^ 
for m the ^ter she certainly would ilTsJd^l 
wouldn't dream of sudh a thingl" 

But still he was not after all to be gay and easv He 
was paymg the penalty of success. ThV^WelSS* been 

oi r^^ pT"^*^' *^* **^ ^ "^^ EiizabetLT^n 
^L^^^^^'^* ^ satisfying, that HuncotfwS 
acdamied as the procurator of p^ular pleasu^ It W 
redly been a triumph, for it iSd im^^ev^ ^ 

I^d^t'?^*T*^*'^^""«^"^- Nowthe^suZ« 
SJ2f' i S^* ^f^*' ^^' w«« placed upon Hu^ 
cotes shoulders, whrther as the imperL purplforTL 

hked the bustie in the air; it made him collecThelijera 
and doing this gave him his first opporttStrof S 
MissGrobyagam. She came one eveiJ^. just fori ho,^ 
to address envelopes while Hmicote wS about th^^Z' 

"^S^:""' ?;^ ^' try^Tto^J^beTS 
^Ir^ '^°'^'* ^''^ *° ^°- She had changed- 
Miss Groby was just one of the seven or eight g^^o 

S.r. °;L«^«^ *o «idress envelopes to ^e ^1^ 
^e looked up at hun. smiled without self <onsa^Si^ 
and he was awkward, as if forgetting for a momenTXt 



THERESA 



153 









Sr^^ ♦ T^^ " *^* ^^ ^°°« '^J««« spring nnilS 

■orts of quesbons, by motor-bus arranK«Sirate Ji^ 
company that seemed disinclined to^'T^y^J 
an endless haggle with the inn at Colin D^ oJ' the 
eve of the social there was a mustard^d^L faL^e 
Z iTmeZ^ ^ ^ sent to Binningh^^^nSSi:; 

worst. Must it be parsley ? - "* *^® 

laiSh l7^^ - ?'' "^^^ n^rably : " I wish you wouldn't 
laugh at me." he said. " I'm fed up with this thinL ' hI 

grew resentful -You're always laGghingat^r^- 

too'^'bT ^'St'* "^ T ''J^ ^''' "' '"^"^ 'or you 

' ^: * ! ^^* ^"y 'o"" *»i"» and thought he looked 

pa^e^not strong. ^Because she was older if iect«ih^ 

Ive got to laugh at you." she said, at last «On?s 

got to now and then if one doesn't want to crT" 

- At^eLTl h":^^ot"' '"^ ''^' ^ "^^'' -^ «--t- 

weii^r^^t^hi^^i^i^ "*'^ "^°"^^- ^- ^ 

" Oh," he said. " I'm so tired." 
Theresa grew maternal. 

JIJ:^^ ^f^.'u ^^ said,- "you've done enough. I've 
been here aU the afternoon and I think you've tXhonlj 

or^^hw ^ ^°" "P^ ^*'s *^ ^bout more diairs! 

done:"havt^^ur" ""^*^ ^"^^ ^^^^^ ^t^ 
"Yes. but . . .- 

seasick; when they've been as rick iT^ey ou^hTto^ 



154 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



B 



they try to begin it an over again. Not a romantic com- 
parison, is it ? WeU, you've been quite romantic enough 
to-day in the interests of the people and of fuss in geneniL 
What you're going to do now is to come out with me and 
have some air. Walk aU the way back to my flat and 
talk about anything but shrimp-paste." 

"All right." said Huncote, "and don't blame me to- 
morrow if they send Carter Paterson's vans instead of 
omnibuses with an ostentatious 'Private' marked on 
them." 

They walked all the way from the Settlement, through 
the httie lanes of Pfenton Town, where they were silent and 
rather grave. He disturbed Theresa, this aimless young 
num; she hardly knew what to say to him. Soshestopped 
m front of a<barrow and bought a pound of cherries. 

• We'U eat them P3 we go." she said. Huncote took one 
with a delirious sense of unconventionality and ate it in 
the street. " Here," said Theresa, holding out a handful to 
a small girl, who was just very large black eyes with a chUd 
round them. The child took the fruit without thanks. 
Perhaps she had never been given cherries befor«. and could 
not beUeve they were meant for her. 

"Poor kidi" said Theresa as they walked on; "she 
looked quite frightened." 

But at that moment they heard behind them a cry. 
Huncote turned just in time to catch a decayed cherry full 
in the face. " Good luck to you I " yelled the Uttle eiri 
"Ain't got no rice." 

They laughed as they went on, but the laughter was self- 
consaous and awkward. It was a shame, Huncote 
thought, that whenever he walked with a woman he should, 
in the popular mind, be intimately associated with her. It 
was a long walk, through Pfenton Town, and then along 
Maryiebone Road to St. Mary's Biansions, where 1^ 
Underwood Kved. Much later in the evening Huncote 
wmdered what they had talked about; he could not 
remember very well That talk had a quaUty different 



THERESA j^5 

«ram otiier conveisations ; there had been no discussion of 

X^^^tt^'r^t^'r^^f^*- TheyhSS'^' 
uiaer a little about themselves, as if thev soHlnn,,.e«^ 

«tter than conversed. He learni that lue^ 2^°^^ 

S^ V!r c f ^y- ^® *5^' rather abruptly " d'vou 
I^H^' Settlement, and all that, fills your iSeLugh^ » 
She did not answer for a while ; then die said ^in 

w T It u ^^ one can do SO muc 'or them after all 
tt^v^i^ •^' ^°« '^^^ «**^»ra««d by his aewlv 

s:?;:s^'i^.']i*^.^'<^^*^^ty.^^^^^ 

"r!^ • ,^' ^^^ Mansions. Theresa said; 
^Owne m for a moment, won't you?" 

-vi ;*• • ^ • • •' He hesitated. 
"«>S- Hete^"*' come up and have a whiskey aiS 
»aSL? w**" S^'t 5" ^ ^^'^ ^y ^ «W«ly maid 

=f f Z Sfd -^ Whe^ LT^- 

J^ no* '^L^^tV'"'^- "^ ^ disa^int^TZ 
IZ!^ rJ" "* '^"^ ^^^««<i cbinties not at^ 
tttreme. There w«i« a few book, „^„ the chairs a 



n»ny more in a bookcase. He read 



great 
the titles of a few of 



t 

156 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

them later: "Religio Medici." "The Golden Treasury* 
also a few novels by Mrs. Humphry Ward. It was moo- 
hercnt. careless, or catholic, he did not know which. They 
did not speak at first as he sat. drinking the whiskey and 
soda. He did not want to. for really he was tired, and 
Theresa seemed to know it as she silently watched him 
fanning herself with a copy of the Studio. She looked 
at him as if thinking: "There, my little boy. now you'U 
be aU nght." After a whUe she said : " You're not in a 
hurry, are you ? D'you like music ? " 

He nodded. Unasked she went to the piano, and soon 
there came from it clear tunes, skipping tunes that sounded 
as If they were being played far away. In a break he went 
5) to the music cabinet, and there he found many people 
rf whom he l^d only heard, LulU. Rameau. Couperin Le 
Grand. She played on, not demanding his attention now 
a fugue. ' 

He said : « IHke that music ; it's Uke time, without a 
b^jinmng or an end." 

"Shade of Bach!" she mocked. "How pleased you 
must be if in this minute, as Biaeterlinck thinks, vou live 
again!" ^ 

" I wish you wouldn't laugh at me," he said. 

« r^! "?? J'V^i " ^ ^'" ^^"gh ^t y^^'" she cried. 
Usten ! hsten ! and she went off into shriU peals. " There 
now you're offended. WeU. you'd better go if you'r^ 
offended. Go on, make a noise Uke a hoop and roU away 
as the Americans say." 

Huncote went towards the door, espousing her mood 
but before he reached it: "Not that door," cried Mis^ 
Underwood. " That leads into an empty mom." 

"An empty room? A ghost closet? You fire me I 
won't go until I've investigated it." 

" Investigate," said Miss Undemood. " You won't find 
Mjything except a trunk or two, and many things which 
Elizabeth will not throw away. You see, this flat has five 
rooms, and I can't live in five rooms because there's only 



THERESA 

He did not like her feeWe humour ; yet she trfeasM him 
He was so tired of bein«? s^rinnc o«^ -i^ pleased him. 

^ ^."7."™ imJqendaice and yet ite HnSinSi^ 

§a 

TJe sumner sodal moved with the splendid ease of those 
great madunes which, considered while at lestlook a^ 
ttiey could not possibly move. To HunStHt se^J^«„ 
famense success, for he had expected itT^ a fS M 
haM-past one on fi^e third ^Say in J^y^J^t^ot^r! 



I 



I5« THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

hlJ^Jj * "^^f '*^* ?^ ^^'^ C'^^^' '^"ved the four 
hiuidred roysterexs. In defiance of County CouncO leeu- 
lations thoy stacked themselves inside and out. the ellra 

Lti f!^;"''* "t^' ^^ ^P^ *^^ heads with gSj 
satefaction; the young couples seated upon the floTr. 
crushed up very close ; odd gaps, such as spaces between 
adult feet, were filled in with children. It was SS 
to make out w^t was happening, for at the entrance to 
^ejy bus the offickl in charge was having continu^^^ 

they had paid fourpence a month. Huncote had to inier- 
yene m one of the roH's which Piatt was conducting for 
the pn^pective ^<Kdate had seen to it tl^t the oukde 
of his 'bus was filled with men and presumably voterT 
an old woman with a smaU boy. a string-bag. th4 botUe^ 
and a dog. was determined to force her ^ in ' 

"Oh surely." said Piatt, suavely, "you'd much rather 
go with the other ladies ? " J" > " ™"cn ratner 

.«! Iffi^? ""^ ^*'" ^^ *^« °^d w<«nan- Then she 
snapped the fasteners of her mouth and shoved Piatt with 
her shoulder. 

" Get on with it, mother." grumbled a man behind who 
also wanted to enter the 'bus. She turned on h^ • "J 
gudtor my seat." and once more shoved the intervening 
Piatt. Piatt was m agony; the man was a voter and 
suffrage had not yet come in. Then the man shoved the 
old woman, and the old woman shoved Piatt And Piatt 
feU on a man inside, who shoved him back upon the old 
woman, who called him a coward. As Huncote arrived 
the old woman burst into tears ; the dog tried to hang itself 
m^ Its lead ; the small boy dropped one of thebotties 
and set up a pierang howl ... 

Somehow the 'buses got off. thdr tops flowering with 
httie girls m pmk, and blue, and white^and S C 
with persistent mouth-oigans, and men with pipes who 
would sit on the front seats and tell those at^ba^ 
what they thought of them when the ash blew back and 



THERESA 
they compiaincd. In sinele fil*. th- ^ «.* «. 
past King's Cross towSf 'thf E^Ld"^ "^^ 
oigans every moment shrmertoTh^^?„r^«'r.*^* "*°"*^- 
domg it.» At Euston tSe^STst^lS^ ^^'y^'ody* 
vo unteer legiment, route-m^-,^*°rti^^ '* ^^^ 
nuhtaiy influence, potent as alwavs aff!^*^^?^f^- ^« 
so that Hmicote co^dhl^th^r^^^^u^J^ Kttlegiris, 

as mner London feU awav f h* ci7„ ^^ ^*^- ''^^^ove. 
heavier blue. Thf^ribyH^^P^O'^o^ 
reveUers waved. HW^re 4 K.J^ "^^ ^^'« the 
going after aU. as if Se Tul^H ^ , * ~°*^*- ^* ^ 
people were c;rTyiL Wm ^S**^'^^ "^^^^t of the 

for there wasSfmXtSgZtr.^'t*^?" *«>' 
He tried to talk to her but «hf^ ?^P^' *^ ^ashell. 

not reply, for on S,e"sit*^lS'^*l^^^ «>'^d 
was raucously entertaii^ h^^tTa^ ""*? ^J'' *^*»»« 
and then, through thTn.mw- .*^^ ®' '^^ch. now 
caught a 'reS?pSL^-^°M*^^'^"^• ""^^^ 
'adn't been for the b^" lf« 7f^^ *^^ *«* « it 
he was too hot. ratWtSk rSh "*,""** ^"^"^"^ ^^^er, 
alL was going w^ L^'i ^^ ^^^'^ *° *^^ that 
we. in/eTperoun^'b^ JSS ^d , ^^ "^^^ 
he could see the litUe rirh ^.^ST^' ?"*'"*>"« out, 
Wuud. and above toe ^^^ )? " **« •■»« J-^t 
their song: " EvervboHvV h • •. 5"* ^ """d hear 

dimbing over the raifTnH,^^' ^^'^ ^^^ "naU boy. bv 
while^oTh ? s^^^^yi^ ?^^ on the li^ 

ling the chauffet^^Tnos^^Jht^-^fSP*'^"* ^ ^' 
string. The altSiSST ^ l^l^J ?!£f ^^^ *<> '^ 
«>arious merriment. ° /^ ''**^ conducted amid up- 



x6o 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



StiU. aU seemed to settle down ; the little boy, after 
havuig been vindicated by his father, was vigorously 
sinacked. And the social began to take its social fonn of 
sphtting up into couples, while lai^e and elderly groups 
fonned m ardes on the grass round the bottles which had 
beoi brought lest the inn should prove stingy. Cockshies 
had been installed, and Huncote found himself indtine the 
httle boys to test thdr skill, while Theresa was busy y^th a 
nuinber of unattached women and their babies? trying to 
Itad them away from the grounds of the "Woolpack" 
towards the toy brook along whidi hid forget-me-nots. 
She smiled at him as she passed, but could not speak, for 
the was listening to the woman with the two babies who 
had travelled in Iluncote's ^us. He caught the phrase : 
Got a chiU on her lungs and died on the Toosday " 
He had ilothing to do. he missed having something to 
do because he had done so much. The party settled into 
lis own memment : groups of men were engaged with 
ppes, and arguments as to where they would get the best 
beer, or the time it took by tram frx)m Crapp's Lane to 
Westrnmster Bridge, while the women wenj being confi- 
dential, presumably obstetric, and the couples dived for 
fOTget-me-nots with many squeaks when ankTes showed 
aild terrors of Hero lest Leander should drown. 

StiU. he fdt he had to do something, so he mixed with 
the people ; he dodged Beesby. for he saw in his face that 
an obscure resentment against something was forming in 
his bram and he knew that Beesb/s resentments wei« 
lengthy. He looked at a party of girls who had no - young 
gentlemen and were trying to look sdect and superior 
to show that they could have had them if they wanted 
Vagndy he wondered whether Miss Groby was among them* 
She was not. He gave them a littie smile and went on* 
The grounds of the " Woolpack " were broad and beautiful* 
for the innkeeper had not enough money to make a garden' 
and so he had endosed broad meadows of ragged, strone 
grass all flecked with wild flowers. And there were ev^ 



THERESA ,gj 

He was shy n«^r the^ aZ, T^'^ !* ^""^ *^ ^^ted. 
flirting in thSTwav-he^' v^"^ "^^^ <=°"P^« were 
holes L theZrir^morZ^ "* ^* ^ ^^ ^<^S 
nudge from time toto^e Tha ^' f ^ ^ * P^^^^ 
But somehow as he w^t on Jn T^^"". "^^""^ W«- 
where there was QiSteTw ™i '"^ °^ *^^ S~""<^* 
a certain ehn w^a iteS^ hf?^' ^l"'"^ ^ *° ^^«*her 

somebody. He^t^' ^'^^ti^^!!!' '^"'^^ ^' 
were all so busy • th^ w JTT. ^™^»>°dy' and they 
It would be nS'he tWlTfK^^y.J'^ ^^ °^ know 
UnconsdouslyTe S^l^'^j^ ^^ Z"^" ?" ^ ^-"^y- 
the groups, he wen^the cS£h£ to L^lTf * ^^^"^ 
where he found Hilda t^h^«T ' ^** ^x^hng-green, 
on hurriedly. ans^rw!!,^^y^I!"^"«• He passed 
of Hilda. He et^3^?to ^^'w ' ?'^**' distinct^mSe 
self that he mLThr^a i^k*^^. Z"^?^S '"^ '^' 
Groby was not there It tronwL* v "^^"^^^^ - Miss 
did not know what to do He^H .'?^'^°^' ^"^ ^ 
Ramsey, who had jus° cLe c^t Ih . 'f ' *^ "^ ^«*• 
hand. MX.. Ramse^ L^t^ "^*^ ^ '°»|^^-t in her 
the sort of thine Mre »»«,«., ' ,*, * ^''^' ^® ^ew 
turned back iS^the^^tZf^^^'^y^o^ght. So he 

somewhere and not S l^u^^u *^** ^^^ ^^^t »« 

her. But at the £,^|^al y ^:! T*^ *« ^^ 
the education of the vS^f^ ^ suddenly abandoned 
lessness strolled a^;C^^;^t^th ^^o'ate care- 

^ijn^thesatyrXVr:^:^"^" "^^"^^^ 

^^^.Xl.^^r^'0^ ^asifit were 

- Isn't it^tty ? "ttu ' «'/^r '^'.^l *^ *«* ^«' = 
"Oo I do » clw «T? . I^nt you hke the country?* 

IX 



i 



x6a 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



" Oil, yes.' said Huncote. still unsuspicious. ' Haven't 
you been?" 

" No," said Hilda, " I don't know the way out." 

Still obliging, he showed her. They hesitated at the 
gate, for Hilda wondered whether it was quite ladylike 
to lead ; then she created a rapturous smile, and said : 

" Ain't it lovely ? " 

There was no gainsaying that, for before them the 
meadow heaved and fell in the haze of heat as if it breathed. 
The lips of the dog-roses opened as in a smile. 

" We might have a look round," said Mlda, vaguely. 

The plump pink cheeks developed dimides and the Uue 
eyes a rogubh air. Hilda had watched the way in which 
Huncote and Miss Groby had got lost, and, well, it was 
so easy to get lost. He did not understand, he was not 
thinking of her just then, for where the meadow ended 
and where, beyond the palings, another b^;an was a 
deep deft as if a ditch had fallen in. In the s\m its sides 
were brilliant white and vivid nist. It wa.s not the 
sleepy hollow, but still it made him think of that other 
hollow, silent and brooding under the heavy moumfuhiess 
of the hanging trees, where not so long ago and for a 
second, through an ugly green cloth coat, he had seen the 
shining flanks of chaiiuMl Andromeda. TlMn he dragged 
himself out of his dream : 

" What?"he said. " Oh, Fdloveto, but I've got to go back." 

A burlesque preoccupation seized him. He smUed. 
•Now I come to think of it, I've forgotten to enquire 
about the mustard and cress." He left her suddenly to 
return to the grounds, oppressed by his desire, though 
half-unconsdous of it. But he did not find Bliss Groby. 
To satisfy his conscience he enquired about the mustard 
and cress; he even inspected the fsandwiches; he was 
not thinking of them, but wondering <mly where she was. 
Through the open windows on the dusty air came the song 
of the social again : 

Everybody's doing it. doing it, deing it, 
Evoybody's doing it now. 



THERESA ^ 

It was mncb later in ♦!.« *. "^ 

^^ -^^-r^^lZ:^ Z1^:ST' S '"'J had tea 

and some old DconleVn^- *^ '^'^ ^ two bibS 
their Wack doSS^'^^^S^^V '">"» the hS^t' 
"«»% on the diseases^vW^^°"i*^ ^^ts. rested 
numerous rolationTlfc ^fo *®'^«** "grettaWy 
to be alone. HrsldiSi^ ^^^ ** ^ist: l2^ wanted 
he l^ the elLlrSeSj ",^' «« tenantcd^^ 
one had been to that d^L* s^"^ If^ that no 
JpPwg path and a dit^' l?Tf ' * **"''«» P^te, a 
bent back behind the Hnfif'Sl f"*^ «^ scented tha? 
«gh of content he dimS^ J?° ^°^" "houw. WitTa 

^Pe. and for a mon^^^ J^^of ^Hith*'* ^^J?' «* h« 
J^ one of the arbou«^ ^ "l^^hing T^ above 
He heard another voice, a^s NJSi ^^ ^''^' ™da's. 
?«»t. it seemed; he 41: ^^"J^^ingr^^ 
mstinctfvely he felt tb^TMll'^^'^™^ *° eavesdrnT 
much. tiiat Hildas secrets wouW notbe' 

sa^'IlTh!^;'Hj„r^';:^td'yertake ^e 

Another giggfe ; «^t ^^f ' J^' know, 'e wasn't bad.' 

In reply to a questional,,* ^^' «' something." 
"anje.Id'no. MZ^to^.^'f^} -^'ti re^l 

Huncote smiled. He ^^.'L^?*^- 
s^d. but Hilda was sJ^^v i„'S*"' *** «»**■ 
glonously, retailing an ea^t^^'f"^^ '^ther vain- 
Asked me to meet ^ I^ » ®^ the street. -. 
ev^g.. «So^*^J2^>,-Jdn't 'ardly ma^ 

another phrase itsachedW-'iwr.- * ' '^^^ 
n^ustardl- An Sto^^j .2^, ^«nchies. they ^ 

^d'yertakemeSy- ^ *^ shockcdly: -NofalT: 
He tow himself that he ouriit t« m. 

« ought to move away. He was 



I«< 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



repelled, lor Klda'i voice, carefully managed when the 
q)oke to him, was »hrin and her grammar beyond leashing. 
But it seemed so trifling, and he was comfortaUe with his 
back against the dry scented grass, and the smoke fnm 
his pipe rising in gentle spirals, opaline against the rich 
Wue sky. Ait suddenly be was startled by hearing his 
own name. Then Hilda: "That dummy? I don't 
think! Besides, 'e's mashed on Sue." He listened. 
Could not even think of running away, besides . . . 
But his uncertainty was at once dispelled, for evidently 
the other girl had asked a question : " Don't know Sue ? " 
said Hilda. " Sue Groby, the one with a feux Uke a bit 
o' Cheddar. She's not 'ere ter-day, got a pain in 'er 
stumuk or something." Another pause, during which a 
curious excitement that made his heart beat invaded 
the young man's body. He heard the beginning of another 
phrase : " They said they got lorst in the wood. Loist ? 
I don't think! TeU yer wot . . .» The rest was 
whispers and giggles, but he had recovered self-control. 
Cautiously he stood up, crept out of the ditch. His 
instinct was to return to the party and hide in it. but 
Hilda might see him go past and it would be dnadful 
If she knew that he knew, though, of couise, it was aU 
nonsense. So he turned, intending to skirt the outer 
meadow and to re-enter the "Woolpack" by the main 
gate. But, as he passed, he stopptd for a moment to 
look at the hoUow in which now the rays of the sloping 
sun made patches of brass. From here he could not hear 
the party any more, and nothing indeed, except far away 
the slow Jnkle of a bell round some cow's neck. In the 
silence and the solitude of it memory drew a veil over 
his eyes, and for a second be saw again the sleepy hoDow 
with the cropped stems of the giant trees and the air of 
eternal dream and sorrow, himself somehow raised in an 
amazed delight 

But in the grounds where now games were being played 
-te^rfrog by little boys who by surreptitious pinches had 



THERESA ^^ 

His thoughts paused^ ***«**■' '^J'* Sue . . 

;S-^tion':;^t£^,:^^^^^ I*^ that n™; 

^''^^ iSlS^ cL^t ^r^^ ^^^^ 

^ was the laug^lt^^lr^d. ^o «>; doubtfS 
«»y thought he^ mor^: *^ E^^ Doubtless, too. 

thmst bock a fee ing T^^^JT^^ r* '". »d he 
that easily, for he wL disSfLf'*.*""^''- »> <«d 
what had'Lppened.^tS^i,'- Jf ^'^^ ^ ^ 
Jtlast iater. tte sodallo^hfTL^,^^^ «»t when 
front seat of oneofXTtlfl.S^*' ^"n*W on the top 
he was silent, ^e L^Ul^i^^."**" "^^ There^ 
Jnew that »ometWng ha^nl^. ^"^"«!«vely ; she 
Suddenly she bent I mu J^. h"" and was sorry 
looked at her.rut^e to his^^'^ h^* whe^ 
were not mocid„,Z: tendt ."^' ^ «>^' ^^ ^ 

yon ZS^'" ''* ""^'">^' -P^haps it's not as bad i« 

wo^^tut^^^tl SL'S^'"^??' Sf fe a iew 
were ashamed and anenTtnrTfT J^ **"^' « if he 
at him a little ^^' *"" ** ^^* Theresa had to laugh 

^o^'^nVti^r^L^^^^'- -'n the work you 

He looked so m^^n^^^l!^'- '''' '^^^' 
airily cynical • "ivii !? *"° wretched that she n^ 

and cut her out " ^ ^® **** ^"y devfl to tiy 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



f3 

WhmTheraia stepped off neer the canal, a few minuted 
walk from her flat, »he did not go home by the mdci-.ee» 
way. She walked ilowly down the western bank, tnmed 
ak»« Warwick Avenue, then, stiU slowly, back again 
mitil she reached the respectable mediocrity of Howley 
Place. She was thinking, and the soft mouth drooped a 
Uttte in every curve. Very slowly she climbed the stairs 
to h» home. She was unhappy. It was an awful shame, 
she fdt, that he should be troubled like this. Medita- 
tively, in her bedroom, as she took off her hat and made 
up a fragrant wash with which to remove the dust of the 
afternoon, she told herself that this sort of thing might 
drive him out of his work, and what a pity . 7 . for 
the Settlement. She paused in her preparations, wondering 
whether she could help him, shield his over-great sensitive 
neas with a wisdom more worldly. She smUed and spoke 
aloud : How siUy of me I I'm thinking of him as if I 
were his mother." She reflected that after all she was 
about three years older, twenty-six, nearly twenty-seven, 
and actually so much older. Then another mood took 
her; quicUy she went up to the dressing-table and tilted 
the broad mirror. She remained for a moment restmg 
upon her spn»d hands, gazing into the minor that threw 
back the long slimness of her arms and the whiteness of a 
neck perhaps too slender. She was knowing herself for 
the first time, it seemed, looking, as if at a stranger, at her 
thick, straight dark hair, her eyes so melancholic and too 
huige. at the mouth with curves that even then were meny 
She remained so for a long time, examining as a critic 
the pallor of her skin, the shape of her rather tong cheeksL 
Her thoughts wandered : " 1 don't think he ought to have 
told me," she reflected, and again returned to the picture 
in the k)oking-glaaB. At last, for the fi«t time in her 
hfe, Theresa Underwood looked into her own eyes, smiled 
at her own lips, and found charm in the creature that 
laced her. 



ii 



THERESA 



167 



<rfthewind. "**^ *»**»« »*«n <rf • lily embraced 



CHAPTER THE SECOND 

THE DAY DREAM 

she must choose betw^ a^Sh^antte 1T« tt 
^ted badly, the portent of evil mnaiiron'thrw^' 
Miss Groby adjusted the many black curls uponX 
forehead ; she puUed down into her belt the cottrSou^ 
rhllTU^K "r*"* discontented with her ^?tic^^ 
which made bunches upon her hips. She thought of the 
advertisements of sUk knickers Vmd 8i«hed then T. 

i^VSm' "?\--^- '^^ adve^^mJs'Tookt 
fast, and Miss Groby was proper. Also she liked whai 
she could see of her figure ; sheVumed. trying o^ mSSe 
of It ; she did not know that her eyes weJ^ n1,t so^rTS 
as to realise all its young beauty. Still she backed ^v 
rais..^ her skirt a little to the right and left as if to cuS 
She grew awartj of her mother in the doorway • " S' 

^'s^^eS^'sl'"'"" "^'" ^' ''^- ^~»>y' comfort^; 

fiftv^th fai h T *." '«^^^'"' ^'"^^ ^""^^ of abou 
ntty, with fainsh hair drawn awav luther tinht (^^ u 

fchead ; she stood in her familiaTat'^X. ^a„d^^^^^ 

upon her apron. Miss Groby flung her aTiSe M^ 

Groby continued amiably to cUTer : 'llks al^'^'J- 

SS ^w'>";'„ n°"«'" ^* '^™"''«» °-er Mts Goby's 
head. Wait till Bert comes. lU tell on yer 1 - ^ 

Miss Groby laughed ; she was not afraid of her mother. 

168 



TOE DAY DREAM ^ 

« Sue ta/S^lfuSLT^"^"^ " """"^^ 
£«15*-^ « a Sue S"^ ^"r^ """V; i-W 
Mrs. Groby collected the hnS. ^^^ ^* •* <^Uen«j. 
«nd looked at the 7oom i^ ' P? *^'«y*Wng straight 
l«««bedforSue^dXrieri«^S'**?°"- ^here^a' 
leg i«nedied by T tUe ThtT^"^^ ^^ » short 
ti^ one had to^httf^^o^'co^S* * tV' "^^ 
and some chairs that had (^n>Z i ^ . drawers open. 
^. ^^^ the neo^ ^""^J?* *«°) d^»t in maS 
the mantelpiece.T^^ Slr^** comprised: o^ 
- lUustrated I^idon N^-^^irt *"PP^«»«nt of tS 
mutton^opwhiskemsto^Th. J"* ^ Policeman with 
the Baby.- On the r^^.i^^J^^J''' "^ Majesty 
?n the left, the moZng cS^T rii^l ^^^ Millar ; 
Upon the mantelpiece w^ TL^^^^"^' ^^^^th. 
y^^, a Goss mug from^^ """^^'^^ °' Sue's 
m wWch a young coujSeX looCS/ ^"^"^ ^''"^^ 
together with a chair in Tci™T5i waxworks floated, 
beside the bed w^^ im„^ ""^ ^°^^"- On the v^ 
" F r " i« *u inunense sampler with ♦k- i_^r^ 

!•. C. m the comer : a present from Mnf ru.. ^*^*«*s 
Sue had enlivened its antiS bvTn.^^' ^"^^ * "mother, 
picture postcarxi whose ^'^IZZT' '' "^^"^ 

"^•^'^•'""^^•^o^^.aloud.-girlswillbegirl.,. 



'If 



■& 



as: 



X70 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

It WM not hi from Paradise Row to the Settlement, bat 
Sue walked qnickly, as she always did when alone. She 
was self-consdous alone. She did not even stop to look 
toto the picture-postcard shop, for she wouM not Uke to 
be caught iy a friend looking at a vulgar exhibition. Two 
gitb together ... that was difienait ; one ooukl 
nudge the other and always pretend it was the other who 
stopped. Besides, she was in a hurrv, and she delayed only 
tor one moment to buy a pennyworth of chocolates, which 
'7!u"''S5^*"*^'^y**»*^ Settlement. At the coiner 
Of the High Street she was tempted to stop because a hone 
had hlka across the tram-lines. A fallen horse ahf^ys 
gave her beautiful thrills, half of pity and half of desire that 
somebody should be kicked : sensationalism. But that 
day she was purposeful, without knowing it, urged on 
unawares. One of the young fellows from Bubwith's 
who had come out ostensibly to inspect the window,' 
wished her good evening. She rawed her chin and wrUked 
on without looking back. Not to-night, she thouriit It 
would not have been much if it had been to-night : Sue 
had had her flirtations, many of them, flirtations of the 
no-fear " and " don't-make so-free - kind, begun at fourteen 
on monkey parade at the northern end of High Street, 
but they never developed into much more than a walk in 
Finsbury Park. 

And so. broad-shouldered, decision in her sturdy limbs 
ckar eyes, placid and purposeful, she knocked at the door 
of Huncote's office. 

He was sitting there, doing nothing He was tiled 
The evwits at the social had disturbed him. and. in spite of 
Theresa's sympathy, he found it difficult to go on with his 
work. He had thought of giving it up. had not done 
10 because there was nothing else to do. He wanted to 
avoid Miss Groby so as to keep down the scandal ; then 
in a moment of enthusiasm, he had decided to face it oot'. 



¥¥31. 



THE DAY DREAM ^ 

>^ohehad met with the inmortroul*s«rf<rf^ ^ *u.. 
•ftwnoon one of the diflydaUvtantes^ri^^u ^* 
explaining to hhn thatrT^^SeSliJSelS^ 
nature of the people It was twJ^TIu^^ elemental 
who marry resn^v Kn*^ ' *^ 5«>un« novelists 

v«2^tinng young man. So. wearily, he said - ^* i„^ 
Don t you give me none of your cheek - h,,* ifl- ^' 

^ar^lS^h?"*1 ^' '° "^ ^^-^^ ^'^ thought w^e 
fi^n mX^^ *"'"' 'T*'^"^ '^^ unknotting her 

«ind me coming iikeUus >- '^^^P* y'*'* *«»'' 

dei^S'whTsSe Sr "*•" "^' """«>*^- ^ h<^ won- 

Se o^^nivS ! who wants a picture. She came in 
tfte other night to see mother, and she did look at thaTJ- 

an^ 1 i^ ^'^.^ ^ '°' «™» «»ctly ; she just looked 
and looked, coukln't take her ^vm «« ^ J»»t looioed 

thoufffat ^^ck r^ . y^ ®*^ **• «nd so I 

^^- 'mu" ^*« stopped. 

<^, mdHuncote. HewastouchMl uu^r^u .._ 
hjd^jt^tedfbrtheoldJ^ 

d«rfretaj*e old woman's eyes. But Sue was taUdTSaS 
now. humed. as if conscious that she had TS^S^S^ 



I!-; 



lyi THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

son home. No doaU the soldier son liked idcttues too. 
So Hunoote went out and in a minute or two came back 
with an autotype, framed in Australian oak. 

" Sorry," he said, " we haven't any niOTe of the girls on 
the staircase. Give her this one instead." He handed 
her " Love and Life." " But I expect she'll like it even 
better, just becaiise it's diiierent from yours." 

She took the picture, glanced at it, said nothing, and 
slipped it under her arm. Then for a moment she remained, 
twisting her fingers and shifting her feel. She Uked being 
with Huncote, though he embarrassed her, so she did not 
want to go; also she wanted to go, but didn't know 
how to. 

" Oh, well. I must be going," she said, at length. 

Bi'.t half an hour later a giggling, exceedingly embar> 
rassed, rather blushing Sue retiuned. She laid the picture 
on Huncote's desk with its face down and remained silent, 
her hands upon his desk, most uncomfortable and yet 
conscious that she was wearing new gloves. 

" WeU ? " said Huncote, " what is it ? " He took up the 
picture, looked at it : " Didn't Mrs. Back like it ? " He 
looked at Sue. There was no mistake now about the colour 
that had come into the olive cheeks. 

" You see," she sdd, " those girls on the staircase, they'd 
. . . well . . . clothes, you know." 

For a moment he did not understand, then he laughed. 
It appeared that the old lady was very, very shocked. 
Miss Groby looked at him as if he were a monster. How 
oould one laugh ? She too thought that wasn't a quite 
nice picture, though she didn't like to say so. 

At last Huncote said : 

" Well, we must give her something else. What d'you 
think she'd like ? " She wanted to rush out of tl» room ; 
be made her so self-conscious by asking her Ofunion ; then 
5he mnmUed : 

" Mrs. Back said she wanted a sweet pictiu-e, you know, 
like The Peacemaker, with the two girls, and the young 



THE DAY DKEAU n. 

Am t It lovely ? ' she murnrared. 

to ^'^r^ w T ^"^ r*?* *° *y • ^« »^d not the heart 

Iri ^ *^* *? "*** "°* *^« °^»on of the Settlement to 

spread the gospel of Mr. Marcus Stone. StiU '^'*"*"; *^ 

^ked so serious. Suddenly she leant over towards him 
with exatement m her eyes : 

I. " 2^'J^^i """^te- do give it to her; she's got it into 
h«: head, she has, and she says she wants to show it to her 
Jim. It s a mce picture, don't you think ? " 

Still Huncote temporised : 

"It's a picture with a pretty idea." He hated himself 
for lying, but what was he to do ? The he tried to^e 
his conscience : « You see. Miss Groby . " he^d 
Ihaxdlyknowhowtoputit . . ?^ .ut there are^i 
sorts of pictmes, the pictures that give you an emotion, a 
feehng. you see what I mean, and the other kind which 
?i^Hnl7^?^.'*"Tr?"*'"S«^^* • • •" He stopped, 
happen outside the picture, like a story " 

" E"ery picture tells a story." said Miss Groby. dreamily 

Hun. ote paused. How could he answer this ? 

«tnJS'*K "i"^ ** '^*' " ^* ^°°'* y«" ^ 't'^ not the 
story of the picture you want, but the story of what you feel 

when you look at it. the drama of your own soul. TTiat-s 

^Inr ^T"^ °* '^ generations in a garden, for 
ms^nce or lovers saymg « Good-bye ' at a stile, a^n't 
good pictures ; they take you away from youreelf iito the 
hves of the people they show you ; they t'ly to mate you 
emotional about the people instead of maWng you emo 
lonal about your^lf. That's being sentitLtal ; Tt^ 
forced. It's artificial ; don't you see what I mean ? " 
Miss Groby looked at him unsmiling, and he thought he 

ZtT"' ^"^ ^ '^' "^^ ^>^' " '^"•ty i« thTthick 
^ fl^^"*""^^.^? ?^^ '^*^y back as the Up of a crim- 
SM^ flower. Sho had wrinkled her heavy Wack bn>ws in«» 
effort to mideistand him, and she looked into his eyS as 



ll 



u 



174 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



ill 



if she did not see him, bat sought something bddnd him* 
She sighed ; she did not understand, but she thought it 
all very wonderful. Still a preoccupation was strong upon 
her : the frown vanished, and she said inomsequcntly : 

" Mrs. Back will be so disappointed if she doesn't get it ; 
you might give it her." 

" All right," bdid Huncote ; " I haven't got one, but I'll 
take her one to-morrow." 

" She must have it to-morrow," said Su« uigently, 
" because her Jim's coming back to-morrow night. Yov 
won't forget, will you ? " 

He laughed ; her anxiety was as sweet as it was childish. 

" I'll get two while I'm about it, and you can have one, 
too." 

Sue's eyes seemed to grow laiger and more lucent. 

" Oh 1 " she said, with a little gasp, " it ts kind of you, Mr. 
Huncote ; but you won't foiget Mrs. Back, will you ? " 

§3 
Bert Caldwell wali^ -d impatiently up and down the mews. 
There was a froMi on his nice fair hce and an angry note 
in the " Soldiers' Ch 'iis " which he was whistling. Bert's 
taste in tunes expr «d him : no music-hall catches for 
him ; not even his wi tstling could be illiterate, and so to- 
night it was tlie " Soldiers' Chorus," as on others it was the 
* Entry of the Pilgrims into the Warburg," or " Divinity du 
Styx." He shifted, for he always shifted ; he was restless, 
and that night impatient because Sue was late. She was 
to meet him in the mews which ran out of John Street 
almost opposite his workshop, because, the day done, when 
the dusk fell the mews were so narrow and so dark that he 
covild kiss her unobserved. At last he took from his pocket 
some notes of remarks he wished to make at the Social 
Democratic Federation meeting. He wanted to swear, but 
this, he felt, would show lack of self-control. He was almost 
absorbed in his notes when Sue came into the mews with 
the air of somebody who is taking an aimless walk. 



.mmt^^'^^:! 



THE DAY DREAM 



m 



• HaUo I " she said, airily. 

I -S„^j;!^^*'o®*^«™""«l' "Late again.- 

- S^Sn ^P '*' ^ • ^"**^ ^ presaingbSness.- 
she ^k wTli '^'^'^ y?» ?• said Bert. ^tic^T^h 
sue laid her hand upon his aim. She lQok«H »♦!,{«; T- 
anient and ^^he were noi so'tl^^'^^^e^iS 
««ctly know what she wanted, but if Bert had been a Utde 
more hke the young feUows from Bub^'s^d ^d 

SS "» the office on the boss's knee, it would have be«aU 
n^Stm h^ jussion was to please, and at onTsSe 
Pi^ed, She said nothing, but merely looked at h.-m 
parting a little more those duling red Ik^ Crina fU^T' 
reproachful, desirous, and^^ ^S;'^^ 1^« 

her dose, k^ the parted mouth, bending her bSHf 
ifhehaed her. wanted to break her. T^ ^.^ ^ 
clasped for some moments, until at last Sue frSlhSetf 

to ?^^';;;? ' \t' f^- " ^* **>« thiiSTou'^p 

^. Bert did not reply, but still held her. if more loosd v 

embodied the grace and beauty which would be ^vJtl 
^e world when Socialism came about and he wS Sad 

^2 He"lSi:f tr «^"*" *^™' -^ inst^e^^f 
FMadise. He looked at her very seriously, and if onlv 

f H ^^^ ^"u^°^' " *°^*^ *''' ^« ^°«Jd have starv^or h^ 
SLt^'lc? "i?'"* -y^ anything about ifor eiS 
tov^h^ "^ ^'*^** *^* ^^ f^°"ld let him 

The moment passed, the tension ceased. With linked 
anns they passed into John Street, but in CrapD's L^ 
turned to the right so that they might p^^the t^ 
hall and lengthen the distance to ftSdi^ow S 
was a respectable yomig man; after his walk ^th^ 
he would go back to his nK,m. have a w^. ^ ^ 












m 






176 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



notes over his tea and then go on to the branch meeting. 
consdoM that no man could meet hit arguments and no 
woman equal the grace of his beloved. They were light 
just then, and they stopped for a long time outside a picture- 
palace to look at the posters. A great three-reel drama 
was billed for that week : " MelviUe of the SweU Mob." 
Bert criticised the chief picture, which represented a raid 
by American policemen on a gamUing-house, where the 
men won evening clothes with douUe collars and the 
ladies high-low-cut frocks. 

" Oo," said Sue, " I'd like to see that, Bert." 

" Can't take you to-night," said Bert, " got to go to the 
meeting." 

" Well, let's go to-morrow night." 

" Don't think I can. I'm likely to be on the job at the 
fire-station Besides, it may be no good ; you can't tell 
from a picture." 

Sue did not reply; her first feeling had been one of 
annoyance because her lover did not give her all his time ; 
but his criticism of the jMcture av.oke another echo. 
What was it she had been told about a picture not telling 
a story ? She was not quite sure, but still she felt it 
ought not to tell a story, it ought to do something ebe, 
she did not know what. But anyhow . . . not what 
Bert said. For a long moment she stood gazing at the 
raid on the gamUing-house, seeking for the drama in her 
own soul. 

"Coom on," said Bert, shoving her with his shoulder 
and affecting a north-country accent. 

It annoyed her vaguely, for she was still thinking in 
her way of the meaning of art. 

" Oo yer pushin' ? " she asked, tartly. 

" You," sakl Bert, with resolute wit. 

" WeU. don't make so free." 

" Who's maki^ free ? " 

" Yo« are." 

- No, Im not." 



^MW^^m 






THE DAY DREAM ,^ 

' Yes. you are.- ^ 

wlJS ^I^S!, "^^^ ^"^y »to contnwHctioo, 
wiucn were repeated seven or cwhf finuM i— «- t—*-"**" 

thirty^ shillinB a week^^l* uZS. ^**^" «*™«« 

at two 8hiuZ/!li !Z!lL ^ ^*^* "«^i» Mahomets 
w two Shillings and twopence a hundred It wm3k- 

mpy, this converaation. disjointed S^J^T^,^^ 
at Highbury over a torn lace handkerdii*.fwi!! ^T^ 

»WnX?^^,^ Sl'™^ •• "«»*'• the toS^of 

« -»;. r. «. I «i ^ ^•t^»*^"^„l fn 

Wl we'w captured the State mJ^ ^^ „!L™* 
end of you, anc ladiea at Highbmy^' ^ " 

tii« arent no mw l«, tandkerehfeb? • ■ " 

Bwt «M(ed her by the wiirt as if to shata her 

thou«nd ttaTtot.rf^'SrfeJl^^V^' 

;;;^.«»t sort Of ™^. ^JrS^^r: 

„^ oouldu-t mato ««„ p,,^,. ^ ^ ^^ 
all deterred by^w <Xf^i. ^"^ U», not at 

13 



178 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



Sae was very angry: making a fool of her in the 
street I 9w shook herself free, nursing her bruised wrist. 
And she thought: "Of course, it's his work, he can't 
help it, but I do wish he hadn't got Uack nails like that. 
Why can't he have nails like . . . like . . . ? " 

§4 

With "The Peacemaker," wrapped in Inown paper, 
under his arm, Roger Huncote turned into Clare Street. 
It was the next day, and he had not forgotten. But 
just as he entered Paradise Square, where innumerable 
children were circling, screaming like gulls, about the 
little pond so full of dirt that no fish could live in it, it 
suddenly struck him that he had forgotten BIrs. Back's 
address: or perhaps Sue had not told him. Anyhow 
there he was, not knowing where to go and heavily 
responsible to Mrs. Back for the treat she was to give 
her soldier son. He stopped, irresohite. Then he won- 
dered why he was in Paradise Square at all; evidently 
she must live dose by. but where ? He remembered that 
Mrs. Back was one of Mrs. Groby's neighbours, as she 
had crane in^'in the evening; he knew enough of St. 
Panwich to realise that calls of this sort were paid only 
within the limits of a street, perhaps of a house. He 
knew where Mrs. Groby lived, in a tenement house, but 
he had not the fortitude to ^ock at every door, asking 
for Mrs. Back. Ife had done that once in another case : 
the door was opened by a young lady in an advanced 
state of rouge and peroxide, and in a non-advanced state 
of toilet, who said: "Hallo, darUng, how did you find 
me out ? " He had better go to Mrs. Groby. he thought, 
and ask her. 

Mrs. Groby lived in what was more than a house ; it 
was four houses knocl^d into one and divided up into 
endless tenements ; it was five o'clock, and the building 
hununed with sounds: crockery being set out for the 
children's tea, perhaps, or washed; screams, expostula- 



THE DAY DREAM ,75 

tioos, ^anldngs. And then, waa a smeU. too the smell 

iSS^T?LT,/" ?• ♦»»*«' floor, for he ^„ 
ad&w«rf The Golden Staircase-; as he went up ^ 
smiled at his own embarrassment; he had never J« 

second floor he heard from above a ch^rftU SeJ^ 
W5t rag drawn along the floor. The voice sang : ^ 

LUa's tootsiM, Uia't feet. 

WiU LIsa't pUtes of meat. 

self^t^'^h^'ifn '^ !r^*** the floor, was cheering her- 
hL^*- J? u!?^"^ song of some cave of harm<^ 
Huncote knocked. Mrs. Groby was alone and ratS^r 
hised at being "caught like tihis." mX wt k VJ^u 
he explained. sl«. tried to diy hei lI<L on'^'^wet^! 

sev«M. Unfortunately she could not help him; she 

room, a kitdien m the comer of which was a Si b^L 
He was t«ed to these living-room kitchens nor^dte 

ttble"bv°^^T ^°^^ '"^ ""«P^ crow^l tS^ 
£ L^H^f '^^ °' * ?P"« paper-packet of hot chips, for 
«rl^^J?r*^ and voices in the next room^'^l 
G^r^T *"*'^^"*^ "^ ^^' At last Mr.. 

Su^rtt /^tX?'' "^^ ^'' * ^^ ^' 
Huncote asked whether Miss Groby was in. 

roun^°'th?' "^^ ^ ^y^^^y- '^'^ at *!»« wash-house 

hJ^ f^; ^™nett^^'^* "^'"r ^y «*^ -^ 
r^^: 1 ,^ *^***** doyleys. as she calls 'em" Mis 
Groby looked self-consdous and proud: "You wouS 



;l w. 



m 



MICROCOPY RESOIUTION TEST CHART 

(ANSI and ISO TEST CHART No. 2) 




1^ 

no 



tii 



2.8 

116 
UO 



2.5 



2.0 



1.8 




^ APPLIED IfVHGE I, 



1653 East Mam street 

Rochester. Ne« York 14609 USA 

(716) 482 -OMO- Phone 

(716) 288- 5989 -Fax 



inc 



i8o 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



I ,1' 



think 'ow clever that girl is with lace, sir. It ain't work 
they can do at them steam laundries." 

"No, I suppose not." said Huncote. His difficulty 
stood, for his conscience was tender, and he could not 
bear to think that Mrs. Back should not have a picture 
to show her son. He told Mrs. Groby, who at once grew 
sympathetic. 

The door opened, and two children came in. They 
were quite undistinguished, brown-haired, blue-eyed 
children, aged about fourteen. They remained at the 
door, side by side, staring at Huncote, the boy rather 
truculent, the girl shy and flirtatious. 

"Get along with you," said Mrs. Groby, amiable. 
" Twins," she explained to Huncote. 

" Oh, yes," said the young man, embarrassed. He was 
told about the twins, and how Perce was through the 
sixth standard at the Clare Street Council school. While 
Muriel . . , 

"Muriel's quite the lady," said Mrs. Groby, archly. 
And she once more bewailed the fact that she had not 
Mrs. Back's address. It was Muriel solved the difficulty. 
Apparently not so shy after all, she stepped forward, 
lookmg at Huncote like a peasant that worships a blessed 
medal and yet feels he is the owner of it. 

"If I may make a suggestion," she said, in a very 
elocuted tone, "Mr. Huncote could ask my sister, if he 
would go round to the wash-house." 

Huncote laughed at the precise mincing child. He was 
later to understand that Muriel was too refined and 
democratic to run a message ; he was to see connections 
between her and others of her class, to underetand why 
Mrs. Groby spoke so badly, her elder daughter rather 
uncertainly, her youngest quite well, too well ; to under- 
stand the steady rise in the people. But just then he 
was grateful for the hint. Pursued by Mrs. Groby's 
apologies, he went down the stairs. They had all been so 
flustered and artifiaal. How awkward! He paused to 



f 



THE DAY DREAM igr 

remember where the wash-house was. and. as he thought 
above h,m he heard the resumption in song of^ 
Groby's ordinary hfe : ® 

Liza's tootsies, Liza's feet, 

w n ^^ ^* }^^y'^^ ^^"^ ti^e cake, 
Will Liza's plates of meat. 

Hn^! "^i'^'t T ^ ^'^^^^' ^ *h« wash-house was next 
door to the schools, that he had no t.me to collect emblr 
rassment. Nor was he stopped by the old womrwho 
c^LS ZV^ glass-case knitting; her function was to 
S J^^l twopences. She threw him a quick look 
decided he must be somebody connected with the CoS 
and at once, all but for the swift movement of her hZds 
grew as the programme-seUer at Madame xisa^dt' 
For a moment he paused at the entrance. Thi^wL a 
queer, new atmosphere, rather dark. Little by litdfhe 
^w some twenty bays, in two rows of ten. each one 
faang a window of frosted glass. He had a sensation of 
wideness. stone floors ; an acrid smell, that wl Sant 

S?hM ii'''*^^"^' ^^ ^""* ^°"g *h^ <=«ntral alleH 
nbted wood under which ran a soft trickle of waim 
water There was hardly anybody in the washhous^ 
for this was Fnday afternoon, the laundress's hohZ' 
There wei« women m only four of the bays, and as £ 
paused he saw broad backs, immense hips fine vig^roS 
woman was banging a white lump. iTaking s3chS 

hr"S"^Sat'^ °r '"^^ "^^ '°"^ scra'pi^r^S 
her feet. That laundress was aU deafening movement 

^ey were so busy that they did not hear him go^t 
ste4 "^""'^ ^^l^^\<^oyered the sound of L ^l 

ui^S" J! r^ ^^y ^^^' ^^y* '^y' as if intruding 
upon some femimne rite ; one of the women had tS 

one neJ^^T^'.""? ^' ^'^' ^^^^^ ^" «^« '^^ bay but 

ZcZTulr^'i''^ ^^T-^"' ^'^S °« ^ "t«« steam 
be came upon Sue. And it was like discovery so alone 

did she seem between the high partitions. i^iSed by 



!-|f ^T 
1 ' i ■ 



, } 



1^^ 






i 'f Mi I 



182 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



.! i 



the thin clo«d of steam beyond which was the world 
StS'tr^.'""^ Of wet lin«.. He hesiu'^.'Sf 

h/t,^'^* " ^"^ *"™«^' ""J ™ expression such as 

.SS^V T'^™° *"'' '""'ement. and a httle fear Ste 

hiScS^lhSS^Syi^S? ^^-.'s^ 

Then • " Oh " b^;a o xi . *"*'**' **^" * silence. 

XT ^; , "• ^° S"^' '■ather jerldlv. "she hvp« a* 

"''afrn^^-.i^r" -•-.-" 
It was a long siJence which, as it grew heavipr m«L 

»d «ed then, „i& Ji^? SHe^tTh "^^T 

m the hoUows of the anns Obscu«iv u/^' "^**.^^y 

S h?r hTheT, te-JX.:^ ^?^.S- 
Ha blouse TOs open at the nedt; the clej Sve"fS 
^b^H""*^T*^.'"'*- H« «* ever^eSTof h^ 

S^ telfd rt *?°;^' *^ '"•iy^penng t^' 
xne nips, and the humed rise and fall of the full j™*! 
young, pointing to the right and I^ » SL^*^ 



THE DAY DREAM 



183 



young body, because so unspoilt. 

«n?\'^^^r^.,^'^ ^^^ ^ wo^Js were uncertain 
and she rephed smiling, a little as if she thought of^e 
thing eke. She held in her hands some lacy stuff S 

of th^^t' ^T '*'°"^ ^**^^ ^^ ^*' had^pulses 
of their own. foreign to herself The gesture fasdna^ 
ton until he looked into her face and L^th a^LI 
renewed the parted, curhng lips and the eyes that^ere 

^lpn<^ K .*i^* ^'"^ ^ ♦^**^'^' ^at^^'- damp and 

Jant here and there with redness where touched thSi 
tte^setting sun as it fell suavely through the froS 

» \"\^ intolerably beautiful then and ffimmerine as 
If she had occurred in a world not made for such thhgs • 

S Ju^J^ T^^ ^^'^ *^°^ ^"^^^ ^* ^'hich she 
so well toew how to make herself absurd. He did not 
know It but tor the first time he was seeing her^ she 
^ and at her noblest, simple, at work. J^SraS^ifit 

^^ T'J' ?"* "^ ^^^^^^*« '°^«r^ her hSty; 
because stnpped of gew-gaws of which she thought too 

^l L ' "^r"^' ,*^^"^ ^°^ ^ "'O'"^^* alone wiS 
^In I •^'°'*^ *^ ^u""^ ^■"^' "°* *^^* »^« °^gl^t admire, 
for m her mnocence she thought herself below aLiration 
bat just to pease hmi. He did not know aU this, but 
he could feel it. So they did not say anything. dSer of 

tti^led and yet afraid of that thiid creature whicHJ^: 
tunes nses between woman and man to bind them that 
imponderable, invisible, incorporeal spirit that is made of 
^o. of one and yet of both, and of another, of iUusion 
passmg and yet real ; that is so fugitive that none can seke 

'kS^^tllTH^L^:^^'^' • - ^^^y ?-t one 



♦»,..- ._ J — •' * ^ui\i, so craity tnat 01 

thus enmeshed may not escape untU he die ; so weak that 



a 



■t! 



i84 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

word or a look can slay it ; so sweet that never can saterf 
tongue recoil therefrom ; so fierce that all shnntT 
they draw closer ^^^ *^*y ^ 



■l?*,- 



CHAPTER THE THIRD 

THE DREAM IN THE NIGHT 

D.tto„ and asked h,:i."gT2 iSr.'^ uL"^ "5 
"jcessary that Ditlon ^otjd tLL hto to tv ^'1?'^ 

being funnVlnd The ili"^"* '™"«' ™* IMtJ 
how^ Z^ r„ Iflaw Ukl f^f'^'"^ at the play 
a.«o.u^ good for"H™«te'ha^Vlr' ^1^ 

"ev^'^^dter^-^"^ ^' '^»" ™X oi 
sickene?'hm In Se^^,'"? .'" '"""""^ ™°™ 
h.m ™,h contempt T^ a S^. 't """^f ''^™ ™«1 
find tune to lecSve hi ^fe S 'f^, "^ *>™f » »^ *» 
have sneered when ti:*;SX S'wt hfd tt"" 

but already he saTchS '*',*' '"''i"« '^P'"*'- 

was not above ClSsd?i^,„' ; V '"■■ "^"g clothes 

afterwards ^^o^^'ZJ^^ t^ ^^^^ *««"-« 
wpat «™e J J , supper at Romano s and beina 

185 



•1 



Jli 



.•*3l 



ifiSi! 



x86 



THE STRANGERS* WEDDING 



able crowd, fat Jewish men with diamonds on their little 
fingers and pretty girls with eyes like enamel. Next to 
him was a party he hated, especially an American girl 
who never said anything, but repUed to a man who looked 
like a red-nose comedian with " yeps " and " nups," which 
feU like the bits of metal from an automatic stamping 
machine; there was a man whom they called "The 
Honourable John." drunker than Huncote had ever seen 
anybody, and some fluffies more and more attentive to 
him as he grew more incapable. . . . 

Why had he done it ? Because his feelings were con- 
fused, because he wanted to do something, anything, to 
have activity if he could not have purpose, to dull himself, 
to flee from the picture that was becoming an obsession,' 
which he feared lest it should become an obsession, which 
perhaps he feared more lest it should become a reality 
his life, and which at the very back of his mind he was 
thrillingly beginning to convert into a reality. That 
was the night before, with Sue still near and her grace 
and sweetness all about him. In the early morning 
It was different ; there was no night now to englamour 
her; she was only a Uttle girl of the people, shy, not 
virginally. but shy because she had no habit of the world. 
He felt that he had been absurd, though he had done 
nothing, said nothing. He had been absmd in emotion 
if not in action, and to a conscience such as his that was 
as great an ignominy. He grew hot and angry. As he 
leapt out of bed he said aloud : 

"Mashed! That's what they caU it. Completely 
vulgarly mashed I " 

He swore with disgust. He could not sit in his rooms • 
everything angered him ; his landlady's ornaments, notably 
the black marble clock in the shape of a tomb watched 
by a shepherdess of bronze, in long skirts and high bodice 
date drca 1850; the bath, in which he intimately knew 
they washed the collie though the landlady denied it. 
And the breakfast was not ready ; he was twenty minutes 



THE DREAM IN THE NIGHT ,s, 

rarly himself, and flung himself ii>»,< .. 
"«» about it. -n^ landkdHL te^rr""l! 

re.«d.his.ht"lrotK:X-];-„^» Huncot. 
very fast southwards, past Kin^l r^^' ^^« talked 

red anns some S^^^ '' J^' "^^"^'^ ^^S' large 

^ith c^sorelC'and T? ^^''^^ ^°"S and til, 

swish of wet rag. ""^ °* *""^' ^^ ^^at swish- 

sw^h"''']^""^ ^T"^ ^" ^^ •• ^« remembered the swish- 

her song, andl' heJ^ti ' -^^""'y' ^" '^^embered 
to himslif ^'°*' '^Sing a cane, he murmured 

"Liza's tootsies. Liza's feet. 

" What's the joke ? " ' 
a»^e =0?;^ rj'tLt'^?. T^.T'f- «' ^'' 

J»'c^r ^ Sir r"---*:^^ 






r^ I 






j?.^ 






i88 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

aged twenty-four and yesterday so old. was for the first 
tune m his life young. He tried to teU himself it was a 
vulgar flu tation. and he did not mind it being vulgar • 
he hked it; it was exciting, adventurous, just because 

ll7?tv?^'^' ^'J'* ^"^"^ ^® ^^^ "«^«^' »'ke his friends 
the Dittons. the Lord Alastairs. painted the town red. 
He wanted so to paint it at half-past nine. Nothing 
told his mnocence that he was good for litUe more than 
pinic. bo m his Ignorance he was happy. The work- 
girls streamed past him, alone and hurr^'ing. or in couples, 
chattenng as they went, or in noisy groups that stru^led 
TIJ P'^^^^-P^Pe^- 3"^^ dawdled before the windows 
t J^f Rob'nson. One of the groups impeded him. and 

iLt •? ^ ^"^ ^^''^ ^' ^^y ^^^'-'g^ ' this fluttering 
femimmty so audacious and so shy. yet so educated by 
London stirred and amused him. Surprisingly he wi 
talking to four of them, while a fifth, an an Jous Uttle 
person with glasses, tried to draw them away lest they 
should be late A big, handsome girl, with hair like a 
~i^ w P!?f^,h™ as her especial quarry. She casually 
remarked that her name was "MoUy." and did he hke 
anemas? But they were all in a huny. and he found 
that only for a moment had he been a " fellow." Regent 
Street grew clearer of shop-girls ; those who were late 
began to run past hun and were being replaced by a new 
contingent the women from the suburbs, about 

to gaze for hours and buy for minutes, until much later 
the rich would come to glance disdainfully for a second 
and pass on untempted. =.ccuuu 

" I'm a dog ! » he repeated to himself. Then he said 
It again, and it struck him that he did so only because 
unconvinced. He thought of those girls with whom he 

fhlt^oH S ^J^Z '?'^' °^ ^'S MoUy. How sharp 
they had been, all of them, and how unafraid of him ! 
How soon too. he thought, the one who talked most had 
thought of something she could get out of him. 
He turned back through the mercantile Great Portland 



THE DREAM IN THE NIGHT ,89 

moved Wm to tlS^ tharwrt aU Ih^'' "^'»*° *™- " 

lus was no common little epSSie F^rSn ?"^' ,^°' 
that perhaps it was not in Se 1^1 ^^ '"^^ 
him as he saw himself ctow m? '^ "^"^ ^°""°^ seized 
unable to^Z^T^^i^^T'^ ''°'' ^""^^y ^''^^'^^' 

sri5i--LtES--f^^^^ 

would have copied 7nt ^fS^'^J^ZZ' r?,?' 

only result was to make him irritable r^,!7' * *^® 

" HaUo I " he said, amSbli « Vl 1 ^°" *^* ^' 
at it " Hi» ♦^u xi. '™*^°v- You look prettv hard 
at It. He took up the draft of a lecture • Th-i^V*! 
and its Aims. "Oh t „,-» a/ecture . The Settlement 

you know ?^ ' ' ^^ «°"^fi^ *° d« that. Didn't 

" Y^, I did." said Iluncote. defiantly. 

di&u?ctu.t^^-Sf "^ *-^ ^- ^- 
do "p-^"" ^^^'^ ^ ^ ^^^S to do it, why did you 

Before he could tb-nk, Huncote lost his temoer • 
Damnation I » he shouted. "D'you ^kX ;nhnH 
here can do anything but you ? " "°^y 

A flush rose on Churton's yeUow-greenish cheeks: 



1^ 



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190 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

" Don't talk to me like that. After aU . 
Yes after all." Huncote snarled. " say it : 'voi're boss 
here and I'm not. is that what you mean ? " ^ 

«,h A°"^^"°'*'. ' T®^ "°*^"« °' the kind." said Churton 
who had regained self-control ;" only I wish . " 

ahl,f ^^T"^*^"" ^""'"^ ^*« *" interminable 'wRingle 

ktn f h^ ♦ ^"? ^f^^g the Settlement. A l.w minutes 

wis ateu? Rv ;h*'\*"'^.*° '^^"^^'- ^^^t the quarrel 
rSL* i'.^y,.*^^ **™® h« reached his rooms he felt 
W ; *?"* '* ''o"^^ ^ °"^y ^ «tUe to write Chm^on a 
bng apdcjy. But. the apology written, he could ttoJ 
only of his own condition : what a day this had been I 
and how he had behaved 1 Ix)w adventure in Re^nt ^^^ 

endmg m ms conducting himself like a petulant chM 
L:^ '■ ™^^*^ conung over him? He sat with his 

nl toul^t ^S^'le tomb : « What's the matter wiihie f" 
?oln^ h! *• ,?^ ^^ T°* ^"°^ ' ^« tried to think and 

dusty, of old curtams. mangy carpets; from outside 
came sleepy air with a rank fiavoTwhen it blew S 
the tamiery or the breweiy. he was not sure which 
His excitemcat turned to weariness, and yet he knew 

SnHTn * * . P^'^t go out. but he kncw that the 
London streets vith their hard pavements glowing in the 
smiset. the asphalt, soft under his feet. woulTno hdp 
him. He could not be with so many of his fdlows fo? 
they would seem too gay. too confident, aiad it wo^i Z 
bitter to see them purposeful whUe he was in tuimoU 
h°H LTTr* ^? *^°"S^* °' St. Olaves: if Ss rn^her 

^^ anTth"' *' '"^^ ^' *^ incon^uentro 
boaahan and the new curate, it would have been aU 

nght. but he shrank, when he thought of Elspeth whose 

diamond-cut mind would put his own to iCe. td 



IHE DREAM IN THE NIGHT ,5, 

into the streethanrv.n-2' ^*^°"* *"y Plan. running out 

an old. old hansom wiih^.t u r *^^w»ch. It was 
which durinnS^Cf wi^^:5°''^ ^P^g^. and a ho«e 
was stuffy. Ld LieTontenTs ^J""""^ t^' * ^^^«^' i* 
aclueving heir ambidon n* ^^'u ^^'^^^ ^««^ at last 

But stiU^ wLThe i ° of ^^' ^^^™^S *° »>"«* out. 
lifted the flap H^tte'sa^^ :'^^dCon"'" ^ T 
ha. said « Heaven r to the ^3^^^^^ o^u.^^,^^^^^ 

Is^^peace and the darlcness ihat%rul^tiM'nT ht 

burfrni:nrIt^\fSmiS^^ ^-*°pp«i 

buy a toothbrush/ tkZtrial'^P^*' '^' '"^'^^^ 
occurred to him. And'^theT^e walkT'awr'"" ^"^« 
afraid that some don of roL 1 • i.^^^^^ ""^"^ ^^ck. 
force him into Te^m^L^L^^.^'S V.^^ "Z T' 

^^Stirc^Strc^ *^*?.^?" He"w;nr o ^d 
and turi^i 11^ tl^e iS^'rld "^w" '^"^^ "^^^^^^*°^' 
he must escape ^from wfm^H k ' ""^^^ '^* ^^t 
the ten-mile wLcT ^^hfir^^,^^ wearying his body; 
he did not L fff * ShJhngford would help him. But 

old to^tfr^:? S; ^^""'JTh*"^ ^"^^^^ °^ ^« 

fields, he came to the ^!^r.^ scattering, into 

ae 10 tue silence he was seeking; his pace 



n 
t 



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^4 



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In 



ii 



192 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

skckejied. He went through Sandfoni where there were 
no hghte. went on along the road where foUowed L T 
^ent of sweetbnar. He stopped. He turned upTpath 
that 1^ dark across a meadow, until veiy near hta^he cSd 

toVlt ""^ ""^P^^ °' *^« Thames.^He dTnot w^t 
to ^ he nver just then, but to hsten to the Zd ^^n 

While the sharp, monotonous cry of the era^hnn™ « J 
the faint swi.h of the grass inThe n^ght'^^^S the 
hghtness. A crescent of pale green m^ hi^g 1„*^a 
sky ahnost as pale, where on the leisurely wind florf J 
lazily eternal cl uds. He heard only th^i^rof naTure 
and, far from man, the passions of man fell f7om S^ 2 
m over-heavy coat from weary shoulders. He w^n^ 
thinking of Sue precisely, or of Lything preci^y Ive^ 
pore of his skin answered the cool night in wwS vet tl.^ 
^ warmth ; he was Hke an anim'al thar hL CLi S 
and desires no more. An impulse stirred h,^r, o^ T 
went further across the meadow'un^l the^thX^ed 

hll^i. "^"^f- ^°' ^ ^°°& *™e he watched the ^ 
sinti^.""! °* *^" ^^*^^' he thought of them Ts 
symbohc of etermty and did not smUe at Ws own pSde 

^In ,!^i"°* ^ *^" *° ^^ ^t platitudes when the 
moon melted her pearl in the opal cup of the night 

voS of a wll^/^tr- ^' ^°^*^"S *°^^* him 'the* 
chihc hTT^JT^^ '^^^- ^* ^^ l^y and melan. 

become a staff which a man was pulling. By the hehtof 
a Chinese lantern in the bows he could see a Sri StinJ 
amor^ cushions, scarlet cushions that inThe y?£wS 
of the lantern were as the flesh df an apricot. TTie7<^Si 
not see hmi. for they were blinded by their own SKd 
fbr a moment Huncote looked upon them, y^g,^ tov^g^ 



TOE DREAM m THE NIGHT 



Ji^s's's^ Se'j^iS v-*^^ 

pretty, that the song was^^' !V' *' S*'' ™s not 
P^ I-i" on thei/<SSS^'"il"^ •• '« ^ they 
»d so fun, an intolerabr^ 'fi^L'"* .""M adrift 
frew as, the boat drawuK a«^ th?^^ ■>> his heart ; « 
They were leaving hta^alv ' 'S'.^^S seemed fainter, 
to his loneliness, LZ2^ S^-^""" '"^^'^ worS 

s.^^htS:^^°.^ri,r^«^.'ade<ia™y,. h. 
hun. and he so lonely ^''' "* "^' "'te about 

^tto-^s lxtj: str^ *^ "e had 

f possession of an his facS o 7u® ^P- ^^ woke up 

^'Ss^-'rr-Si^oKd^:--' 

-tasy. H.»».^.,^;r^^^hi,^ 



I ■ 



;-:i.: t, 



7i 



.^^ ' 






<i'i 






(i 



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194 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



'I 



:i 



pursued. He sat up. It was cold in his room with the 
night half-spent ; the window with its white blind was 
opaline and shadowy as a window's ghost. A treacherous 
hght feU upon the blind as if dawn were near ; he heard 
sounds : cattie lowing far away ; a cock crowed, and he 
shrank as he thought of the day. of the problem that light 
must bnng. " It is easy enough." he thought. " when it 
IS an unreal." The cock crowed again, and Huncote 
feared the day. For some moments he remained hke 
this, sitting up in the tumbled bed. his hands clenched 
upon the bed-clothes, waiting for the sun, but his eyes 
straining to the window saw no greater light ; indeed, 
it faded, and the cock crowed no more : false dawn and 
its chilliness was on him. Suddenly he flung himself 
down into the bed. drawing the bed-clothes over his 
head, hoping io the warm darkness to find sleep. But 
it was thought he found, abominable, clear, logical thought 
He struggled, but it was no use ; in the hot darkness of 
the bed the picture of Sue formed before his eyes, fearful 
and lovely. An obscure instinct in him suggested he 
should pray to be delivered from temptation, but he was 
too proud to pray. He thought: "No. I have never 
worshipped God when aU was weU, I'll not appeal to Him 
now." He would fight the temptation alone and bear 
the blame if he failed. 

A question formed : " The blame ? Why the blame ? " 
Sue's dark head grew so actual to him that he was afraid 
But more than afraid, he was delighted ; the dark eyes 
seemed full of wonder, and the red, curling lips parted in 
the smile of appeal rather than incitement. She was 
irresistible and charming. 

Suddenly he remembered Mrs. Back. He had been 
so stirred that he forgot her and her soldier son. The 
picture lay at his rooms in Clare Street. Such was the 
power of Sin. He was shocked. Then he thought- 
"After all, why not? What is class? Artificial!'* 
His logic pulled him up: "No, not artificial, but the 



THE DREAM IN THE NIGHT xg< 

A powerful catch-phrase seS^w. ?-i?^'°^"*^ 
labour." And at ^^Tl. v"^ "^ = The nobffity of 

asocioogiSS^^lf"" ""f^ "**™ '"""ed into 

tive lite si many of h^°*olS^- »»' ""I' »»' ""^ 
For a long ,toe L tho^^hf^ hL i™ J^ "h^V™!: 
as mercenary often <nnKK«i, ,, He saw it 

He buried Si faceTn f S ^f ^ g^neraUy, idle always. 

a-cJ-;-lS^^^«f^T«nr^ 

if saying • « L JT f^®^' «^^ ^^ resigned, as 

» / o . uo With me what vou will " h« o^;- j \r^ 

ofienng; he had a vision of Sue^^tHil hS « h?^ f ' 

Sue who knew the difference betweer"«,w » Jt ^'. ^* * 

He smiledas he thought of%,^V^?K Y^* and "whom." 

hat. then two or S then n^^ ^^^^ l^^^* '"^ ^ her 

iust a blaclc ai^^' Sa^^^^^-^o -f teUP 

only Sue now and f Ha ««« * \f ^"®' *"° ^ Sue, 

silent and d^k ? t ^i^^TV ^" *^°"S^* ^^ ^er 

pacing and the dawn on the winT- stiU h. ^ ^?\ ^^ 
and what he could make of he^ T^vf ^S t ^°'^^* °^ ^^'' 
thought to repeat? wf Z' ^^"^^ ^^e condescended. 



'■I 



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296 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



He remembered her as she stood bef<»e him, her long, 
pale arms, her acquiescent eyes. A humorous idea struck 
him : " WeD, well have to have a wash-house, too, and 
she can rehearse the old part." He laughed, and as he 
so did the dream-head laughed too; it was as if the 
curling lips said : " Laugh, master, if you like ; I don't 
understand why, but if you laugh I am content." 



CHAPTER THE FOURTH 

THE WONDERPOOLS 

could not helpT«Sz?^v^»^T '" *^' "^^"^ ^5^' ^^'^t «he 
to Bert had hylJS,^^ TV""^^' antagonism 
not to add/-You d,^w?*?l*^^^ She managed 
^ which this Saturday ^Sn wP^iw"** ?" *^" ^^' 
Highgate. It w^ wt,^ ^ ^ *^"S them towards 

to railways Md ?S v- '*""* ''"'^«- *•«* 1«1 

ButasthSryit^d„or^?n\''?f f'^^ "«>• 
to proper pri* and »h» ?>,'""'*'* '''"" I^opitUtion 
Fields, was w^iS^JJ^^"* f "^^ Highgate 
^de by ide o? theTaS ^^ w " ST '''S' ™^«J 
^__aesce„di„gly: " I^t.3; STis^rit P^/f^t^: 

at'tKtL^sS"^'" '"' '"' ^'y ^"'*tog 

ffic;!^'at^^to?Lt™his7r-"^,^"=<' - ■" 
that was aU. ^- "^^^ ^^^ the moment 

not quite side by 



They went on side by side, or rather 

197 



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198 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

side but Bert a UttJe in front, not much, five or six inches 
perhaps, in virtue of their class instinct which, better than 
that of Mayfair. remembers the Indian brave and his 
squaw. Silently stiU they went up Parliament Hill • 
1 <was a long dimb and a hot one. When they got to the 
top Bert mopped his head, and Sue wondered what he 
would say. for she knew her quasi-fianc6. knew him for 
ta^taye. and had always found that a long sil ice was 
mth him as mevitably the prelude to a row as the luU is 
that to a storm. And yet her waiting was not aU anxious ; 
she found herself strangely absent-minded that day 
and she looked out over Highgate Ponds, now corrugated 
o7 i^ ??., ^^^ ^^ glistening dully hke molten lead. 
at the htJe groups that were families, at the couple* 
pretending that the tree hid them, at the field below 
near the bandstand, where a great many teams of assorted 
ages played cricket. She did not think precisely but 
somethmg at the buck of her mind, unmingled with the 
ijass and the i;un. made her happy and unafraid. Yet 
she was Minoyed and rather insulted : the complex product 
Of Saturday afternoon and paraUel passions. Suddenly 
rtert spoK , and it was jarring : 
^ B^n getting yourself talked about, haven't you ? * 
^ I don't know what you mean," said Sue. 
" What I say." Bert replied, profoundly. 
" Wish you'd say -t a bit plainer." 
-Been getting yomself talked about, haven't you?" 
said Bert, more cheerfully now. for he knew he was beine 
imtatmg. and that soothed him. ^ 

She niade a movement which would have been a shrue 
of tiie shouldere if she had been French, and a toss of th^ 
head If she had been bom in 1820. It did not relieve her 
much, and she had to be content with assuming an air of 
mmgled aloofness and martyrdom. She knew the power 
of that au- and. indeed, in a few seconds Bert. £vine 
glanced at her sideways, went on : 
" Well, what have you got to say for youraelf ? * 



THE WONDERPOOLS 



question: is it tr^t swel,'^"«^*' '.^ ^sk you a 
It's aU over the pTaL » ' """''"' ^ ^^' you ? 

"Somebody's been tellin' you the tale TW* » -^ ^ 
But her heart seemed tn hLr ' ^^' ^aid Sue. 

rather too iSSSe^;,^^^^ S^°^ in that moment 

me\'l^tl°/SrtfJ- -^^^^^^ been tellin' 

^ey say he c^^ft i y^u "t^^lt^^^." 'J^^*'-"- 
true ? " * lu see you the other day. That 

th';;r^4*rtheiair:!;^^"^"^^ ^-^^ps 

was not in. Sid^he had tte ^H ?''' ^^^" ^'' "^0*^^ 
tation. She hurried to ex^ain ?'"' "^^' '^^ ^^ -P- 

It was only about the picture for Mrs R,oi. u 
had come round before. It w^ol '«* "' °'^^'- 

Her humility made Bert as anerv as' h'^A \ ^ . 

""s he?" She said nothiie^sh^ J" ""' "^"-l"""*. 
Huncote felt that afteSn ^Butja^ff. ^, «' ^ «!■« 
■»™Oiy. " mink nobody saw you p'^ '^^^ »«">«ng 

"W^^-^-ralliS/r-^-epUed. 
reproach, "so there w^^^f^- ! °^ ""'^^^' ^alf of 
YouVe given theTml^^r ^^ *° -e. was there ? 

« There's no game to give away." 

^Jfes, there is; you said it." 

^ No. there isn't." 

" Call me a liar ? " 

"Anything to oblige." 

:;^^. I don't want no favours." 

"Sm to perfection, might have ruled for a 



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Ill 



900 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



long time, but Sue relapsed into sulky silenoe while Bert 
Degan again: 

Wr^f^of '^?*^i* y°"'" ^ ^^' " ™»kin§ yo^n^lf cheap 
Wee that, and with a swell. A sweU I • hi Vepeated^ 

mcreasmg bitterness. " I'm not going to talkab^tm^H 
or where I come in. you know whati meaT ^^ 

«hJS^k^:^ 'y^"^ j'^*"^ *° g«>w emotional, ^nd to 

^aILu' 1*^°" "^"^'^y ^^*«^^ o" clas;hatred: 
A swell I A university snob ! 'Spose he's turned your 

who s never done a stroke of work for his living. oneVf 
th<»e who prey upon the people." His wr^e grZ 
sooological : " It's to keep his Srt that chaps^eL^T 

as a reward. They make me sick." 
" You're jealous." said Sue. She had thought that out • 

i«:';i:ai4« xf^.i;,-ri-* 

not a Piccadilly Johnny. You just watch 4 Tbit,^^ 
you'll find your masher hanging about the Gaiety skge- 
d—. lookmg for another softy like you. TTiose peSe 
Hed?".^r"^\- • • "kehyen^asonSS^ 

^^^"^^^ *^* *'' '^'' ^^ "°* express what he 
meant. What do we want people like him bossing us 

^ L^" ^Z ^^^* 7«'^« got to do. That ^rtTj4 
^ on Irii '* ' ^°* *^°^^ °^ ^ "**^^ b^t of money, andit 
^d tLn ^^""Z^y. "^^'^ *^^ ^"°"g^ to J«t it keep it 
Zl,f^ '* ^^'^^^ ^ to let us have it back. Us." he 
shouted, wavmg an angry fist towards Highgate Pon<b 

adtd."?'u ^; °^°"^y'" W^*^ inunenL feeliig he 
added : It makes me sick I " ^ 

«^'h^'i ^"7"*^ ^J"^' ^^ *« *^«^ to be conciliatory : 
Oh Bert." she said, "it's always been like that. Tl^ 
have always been masters, haven't there?" 



THE WONDERPOOLS 



r v"' '^* """ '™''» •» long." 
Shestraatlrf JL"*''"'' *>"« »' <« haw to .erve?^ 

Ha,^' "^"^* *^| r*-.™ ^t th. bit 0. h^ven. 
I wouldn't mind «^ wt" v^„T '"''• '""•» 
not going to have^Zrd7,™? rf*™"' '"'* I'"" 
Heaven I Wish you'd Sfe W "" "*' ' '«*»an. 
only a pareon's di^.. *^" '"*™" » «"• Heaven's 

it wto 'j^r^'SeS^'^' ■■^'' ■"»" ' "»■■'* '^ 
nj^h. cheei^'s pale^'dt.'r a-^-S^^Sr ^ a'^g^' 

of capital in a few handV iLc • *^^V*^ accumulation 
maa to those whoL^hfli^^ fi^?° v'' I^^ °^ ^^^^k" 
on, addressing Sue, who l^d toM 1°" *^" J^'" ^e went 
we're settingllass ag^st dat WeJ^tw*"^^'. '1*^^* 
lower class, as you hke to r^' •* t^' ? ^ *""® ^a* the 

the upper class^^hi'h fo° ^mt"^??^ ^ ^* ^»«* 
has been Sf.- '^ ^ "^^y thousands of yeara 

W^-and daS^r ; Vwe^had'^T 'f ^ 

and class-war since the world Wo ¥^ class-hatred 

at the top that we« Jt^^ S^tt^ 1^ ^°" 
making war on 'em. Times 1^7^^ • '^"^^ ^nd 

change more ; the worldfeteS! S^^f ^^ ^mes wiU 
; . . " They tiT^all2!^-™^^^'''^« shouted. 
"Social defoi I ^t i?iS' ^« ^«°t on bitterly. 

"the dass-^.'^-^'a^^nigS-e b^^th^^. 



Si 



f 



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802 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



d>B realise what the class-war means ? WeU. I'll teU 

wris?S;. '^"''* ^'''^''' "^^ ^"*' "»^ '''^^^ her 

litSf ^^ T "^l^*'*- "^^ 7*"* ^° **^^' and little by 
litUe shd from the general into the particular: didn't 
rfie understand that the game that snobwas playing with 

tt^pl^ ^"^"^ *° *^ • "^""^^^^^ *** ^^ ^*°^«° '"^^ 

h. w^nf "* "°*^^ • ^^ "^^ ^"Sry and ^« was bored ; 
he went on arguing and arguing, never reaUsing that here 
they were alone on Parliament Hill, bathed ^ the sun! 
shine and in the scent of the warm turf, that all he had 

I°* LT^ '^^ ^ "°"'^"* *° '°^et ^ general ideas, to 
put both arms round her shoulders and kiss her onci or 
twice, agamst her wiU perhaps, until she was entrapped 
and captured, wilhngly resurrendered. 

h,-^'*l^'*'!;f ^^^^^ ^^ ^nocent. and this served 
him as straightness and innocence do serve a man He 
went on attacking Huncote : 

"Now then » he said. " out with it-is it me or is it him ? » 

bue evaded the question : 

^ Haven't got to choose, have I ? " 

"^ Yes, you have, can't have us both." 

" Don't want neither of you." 

« What d'you come out with me for if you don't want me ?" 
^«,i d^d want to come out with you," said Sue. sud- 
doaly anxious to placate him. 

"Oh. thought you didn't want me ; caU that logic ? " 

ci, *l ^if f*, ^ '^*^^'" P"^^' never before had 
she thought of logic, and even then his remark did not 
mipress her much. So Bert shifted and attacked Huncote 
agam: 

" Don't congratuUte you on your new fancy," he went 
ra. ^ Narrow-chested, watery-eyed, knock-kneed sort of 



THE WONDERPOOLS ^ 

"He's not knock-kneed" ^;a c ^ 
"{erring to HunSte^Uy."*** ^'"' '^' ^^ «"* *i»« 

Yes, he is, and he lonira ui,^ « 
were in your line Sue." * * P*^" ' ^^^ always 

The girl stamped ; 

^^ow dare you talk like that I He hasn't done you any 

"D<S:;'TooktiKt^tHf^7' ^^*^^ ^ P^"- 
him; stick to yom vSt^^y"" ^T You can have 

Ma<Jjn,e Tt.saudr;^rotrd^iJLt" '^" ^°"^ *<> 
«o on'hrtra/;t^° L^^™^, iPk to you. if you 
Bert. Looks a^ if^e weren't ^S' ^ ""'^ '^""'^ ^' "°w. 
She made as if to go^^''^ *C^^ °" ^^"^ -e« to-day.- 

round you I'U knock his head off'' ^ monkeying 

•' ?^ Tdf •' f^^ y°" ^ " ^d S"e. defiantly 

For;*, «^"°^^'y°"^°ff'too." ^• 

his r a S.'""Then h? ^I? Sf t"^'^ ^^ ^ 
Had he but known i? Z Itl ^"^ ^^ ^^^ ^^ 'aU. 
been his, if he had^not' S hu fiT!",*." '^" ^^^^^ have 
sore hp and thenwil away he^ e^' ^"* 1?^ '^^^ ^ 
and she. insulted by the thrSt vet ^* • ?^ ?"* "°*^"Sr. 
he did not carry it out Hi^IfK ^ ^^^pismg hun because 
" Ta-ta be^^ « i drew back, was defiant, airy • 
,r , ' "e good, she said. Sh«» f nrr.^^ V •'^ 
her hght figure had disapwared L "5 A ^°"S ^^^^^ 
watched her At first hl^toii ^°°^ *^^ ^^^^^s he 
able sense of loss sS WnT q? ^^^'' ''"* ^ intoler- 
with her the goWeSr^h. 1 ' ^'^ «°"^' ^^ P^^haps 
Sunday. the^deS cS ^1^,^?^ ^ *^^ ^^^ 
speeches with iT ^ns C.T i^^"^^ *° ^« Po^iti^ 
Caldwell, ana theiT hJoe 1^""^^^^^' Holyoake 
CaldweU. Everyrthkg ^s)Sl^' J^^' B^shkirtcheff 

was chaos. H^ZdhT^ "Itt^fL^ k' 5°°"' ^' ^^^^ 
o"gnt . It s enough to make one an 



r 



I: 



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St'. M 



a«4 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

She went down the Slope With her head up. She knew 

S! i^^lJT *''''?°« L* "P- *» ^* *»<^^ »t a «ttle higher. 
She looked proud and fine, with her full mouth lorn- 
pressed and mutinous, her heavy eyebrows that tried to 
meet m a frown. At the bottom she paused, for here 
was the railway and somehow, perhaps because it was so 
hnL'° Q^*' .^^ 5° Saturday, she did not want to go 
W^:^, A *"™*^,^k and slowly walked towards 
Hampstead. escorted by thoughts which troubled her 
b«:ause she understood them so m. This was not wonder- 

formulated one of them: "Given me the chuck" she 
murmured. " More or less." ' 

She squared her broad shoulders and thought- « Oo 
cares? But at once Sue knew that she did care. She 
had lost Bert ; well, more or less. One never dirapp^! 
aate people until they were gone. "Not lost, but gone 
before, she tfiought. with bewildering irrelevancy and 
mimense satisfaction. Then returned to her preo^cura- 

.hT;K ""k."^^.^^ ^^ ^' ^°^* ^^'^^ ^^' once more?t 
she thought. " Oo cares ? » the image of Bert beciine 
more msistent ; one could overlook a human being but 

thL?1,>f, !l''' a gWous past. She remembered 
things, bttle thmp. the day when, between an exposition 
of the errors of the anarchist. Kropotkin. and an eraptive 
allusion to the record speed of steamboats, he had con! 
fessed his love for her. 

K.i!-^?''!?'" **'°"^^* ^''^' " ^ remember where he said that • 
behind the gasometer, it was, up Crapp's Lane." She 
sighed. It had not been a bit like the picture postcards 

I^n T.^lf*"'- ■ ^'^' '' ^^^ ^'^ ^^^- ShTsighS 
agam and looked sentimentally at the ring which was nrt 

exactly an engagement ring and which, therefor*, she 



THE WONDERPOOLS 

wore on her aecond finger. Gam^ .«^ . *^ 

•ay that oraU a« unluf^. ^,J"^ ^^^l *hey alway. 

Her meditations were internmf!? / ' J*'* "^ «™«'- 
of a presence. She S ^^I^i'**'' '^^ **«^ awan, 
•tber. That did noima^^*i^?«"*"^ho looked 
hi. footfaU behind"hlr^^;t S^^H^^l" *t ^^^^ ^ 
have passed her. for she had been Li -^^^^f^*' ^"^ ^^* 
her face. The young m^ waTk^^'°^ °' * P**™« «to 
•Ae rather Uked^h^loTk of ^ h"°'l ^'^^^^ °°^ and 
red and purple ribbon.^d iL^liL^i f *^ \'* ^*^ «»« 
the young man wall^m^ i ?^* ^^*"«^*' t'oots. But 

catchhimV fiSte^" :lTLl?r '"? ^^^^ 
just as he was about to sdS "?!: ^"«^had her principles ; 

the impressive hat. she SSed nW '^T^ ^'^ ^^ to 
leavmg him conscious thl^^'s 4"f , ^S^« ««d away. 

no?m^ld^-r ^^'^-o^ '^^dly have been 

Tl^ emottal'inomt ^'Z^^r T *«^^ 
scrambled up the slopeTofthTv^i^J'^^^ she slowly 
Spaniards Road thaTleW L Siw' "''^*^ *°^ds the 
and girls. motor-ca« thS h^t Jm ' f ^'^^^^^ °' hoys 
fitimentality H^g/w waf to T « ^°^' ^ 
ActuaUy had the sauS to ri^ LV f I 3^ ^"^^^ I 
maedible. (He had not pVefklr tt"**.' , ^*^»»«' 
chose to be injured and to fhL x^^. *'^"<*' hut Sue 
moodily she reiused S if w^ot'^rt'^ ,''^ "^^ ^ 
the chuck ; if she chose to J^ ^t^!? ^^^ .*° «^^ her 
th«g. And what was ^e row Ife .'^^^'"** ^«ther 

stopped for a moment to l^kSto^^"*,^"'^^ She 
over West Heath so dee^ * w ^ -P^® ^ *hat hangs 

hehind those hoSws" ^ttty "L^ 4?.^^ T «« 

a^ut'"hL?-"^«r*^'" ^^«^4tt. "U'^IS 

about hT?" Sh^Sd^""^ aggressively: -)^J "^ 
Herindip,ation^:i^4r^^^'^- "o^ heifT^ 
to speak about him like thS w, T* ^^ "^^ husiness 
•ouise, still . _ sL*^- ^^^ .s*»ck on him. 



fiii- 



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She ceased to think 



oi Bert and 



ao6 



THE STRANGERS* WEDDING 



Huncote ; began to think of Huncote. Rather dreanuly 
she evoked the young man : she liked the picture, the taU- 
ness, the slendemess, the serious eyes, the air of hesitation 
and deUcacy. It was aU different from, from . . 
well, from other men. For some time Sue struggled to find 
a word , the word was " breeding," but she could not find 
It and so, as a substitute, little by Uttle she formed a com- 
' panion picture, that of the hero of a novelette, called Sir 
Lucius. Sir Lucius proved an indirect way of getting at 
Huncote. She remembered Sir Lucius and how he took 
his cousin's guilt when the latter stole the will which should 
have made Sir Lucius heir to the estate. She wasted a 
tear on the heroine, who was kept by force in a moated 
grange for "^even years, and came out, fortunately more 
beautiful than ever, to marry Sir Lucius. Her eyes grew 
misty : Sir Lucius, wet and starving on Dartmoor . 

Yes, he was like Sir Lucius, daring-like. Pity his name 
was not Sir Ludus. She wondered for some time what 
his name was, as she only knew him as " R." Richard, of 
course, or Robert. For a moment she dwelt on a vague 
vision of somebody whom she could call " Bob " or " Dick." 
TTien she scolded herself without being quite clear about it, 
and summed up the impossibility of the whole thine' 
"He's a toff I" «• 

A little later, as she tried to assuage her woe with three- 
pennorth of picture-palace in Heath Street, she was still 
reflecting on the queer complex who was now becoming 
more or less " Sir R." But a bitterness ran through the 
vision: " He's a toff," she thought again. She sighed and 
meditatively sucked a peppermint. 

§3 
It was late in the evening. Mr. Groby was still at the 
St. Panwich Arms, waiting for the Sabbath. Sue puzzled 
her mother that evening, for on Saturday nights it was her 
habit to go out either with Bert or with Ada Nuttall. She 
stayed at home, " quiet as a mouse," Mrs. Groby thought. 






I 



THE WONDERPOOLS 



207 

There was a lengthy search among the novelettes of which 
several ^res littered comei^ in Sue's bedrSn T^t 
Mrs Groby went to sleep in the annchair in^^avomSe 
a^tatude. hands aossed on her belt. When she wX^ 
bhnking. she saw only the profile of her daughteTnea^R 
black as she bent under the gas ^ 

'^"^rjr^;' " ""^^ «-• ^^^^ ^^y- 

. " Why aren't yer out temight ? " 

"Don't always want to be out." said Sue. rather acid 
Mrs. Groby got up. and as she passed looked enqSv 

at the novelette ; the title. « Sir Lucius and Ks Tl^ 

J^d tl r?f ^ - " "^f' ^^»'" «he said, comfortab^^^'l 
used ter be like you. Sue. I used to be a great reader T 
did." Sue shut up the novelette. TTien. asTwitTS^n^ 

"^No^s^d tr ^ ' " ^" ^- '^-^^ ^ "" 

« nu" ^^^ ^- ^^""^y- ^e« again : « Oh I • 
^ Oh what ? asked Sue. suddenly savage. 
i;idn t say nothing, merely thought " 

be^::r^^dno'ttrx""'-^-^-^-i-^^y 

S.l^r'^'L^ cT^- ^^ "^ acrcis ieopk. It's a 

ctescnbed him in detail, pronounced him " a 'an'some feller " 
and grew reminiscent of an ostler at the " Seaue^ » 
dovm m Sussex. " before you was thort of my ^P The 

oSl ^T "^^T' ^- ^^°^y continually retumel 
to Huncote. She wondered how much he got mid atthe 
Settlement. Sue had to keep herself dowl so^ not t« 
^ out that it was voluntary service. Z. Groby 1^ 
to speculate as to how he got religion, which left Sue dS 



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ittil 



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308 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



for religion was not discussed in her world. Then Mra. 
Groby began again : " Shouldn't mind *avin' another look 
at 'im. Now, Sue, when yer see 'im agin . . . Well, 
I never I " Mrs. Groby remained both hands well away 
from her hips, for Sue jumped up, seized the candle and, 
with as much dignity as speed allowed, went into the inner 
room. Ahnost immediately Mrs. Groby heard the sound 
of boots being thrown on the floor with unnecessary 
violence. Mrs. Groby felt indignant: leaving her like 
that, and making all that noise. She opened the door 
a little and whispered: Stop that row, I'm s'prised 
at yer." 

Sue did not reply. Quickly undressing, she got into the 
bed she shared with Muriel. 

Muriel had had a good Saturday. Her hair plaited, 

she had washed with care, washing being a new taste. 

On leaving the tenement she sat down on the staiis to slip 

on a more than second-hand pair of grey spats which she 

had secretly bought for fourpeuce. Outside, her particular 

Romeo, aged fifteen, was serenading the house to the tune 

of " We all go the same way home." Romeo had drawn 

his wages that day, eight bob, and paid nothing at home 

because his mother was a widow and he a terror. So 

they had been to a picture-palace ; a great many oranges, 

at four a penny, had been eaten in the High Street, and 

on monkey parade much peel had been flung at rival 

couples. She rushed out after tea, loo, and Romeo, whom 

apparently nothing could repress, took her into the gallery 

of the St. Panwich Empire. It had been lovely, she 

thought, and Romeo, with thirty others, had whistled 

violently and challenged the CMnmissionaire to come and 

chuck 'em all out. And he tried to kiss her on the way 

back : " Behave yourself," thought Muriel, proud and yet 

a Uttle stirred. She was awake, conscious of digestive 

disturbance, oranges probably. She moved, tried to find 

a comfortable position, and as she so did came up against 

her sister's firm body. She was preparing to shove Sue, 



fw^-> 



THE WONDERPOOLS 



:1j^Vt. X^r^^S^^ then no.2 

wheezing that thriUed and frigSd her n* '^^ 
vowel sound, regularly repeated if . ^ '^^T' ^^^^ 

frightened, for ttie bi/wL,SfI ',i *'^^' ^^ ^"^^1 was 
"Sue." she whJs^rerTer'si^t^^^ 
hesitating Muriel took her bv Thf . "°* '^P^y- Half 
towards h^. For Vmom^nf Q ^' *"«* *<> t^ her 
" What • it Sue ? " r,^ . ^"f.'^sted. then gave v ,v 
crying for ?^'' ^^J^^ n^^rbr"''. " ^^^^^^ y- 
of her sister's nairow lit«e Z L ' ^^"^"^S the whole 
she kissed her. M^el d4t S dd^ T '°"^ ™' 
mmcingnow, but afraid ^d verfLn ^I^' "°* ^* *" 
sorry. " What are you 0^/^^?^!^"^' «"lf> °»*ow so 
again, but Sue would notS nnl-, "Jl '^^^ again and 
got up and ht the can^e But^?/* ^'1 *^" "*«« SiA 
for though Sue's fa^wt wrt liS tS'rT ^If'^ '"'P"^' 
was like an April sun-rarth^I^rj !^' *® ^^^d. It 
strange: such a ^eZ^\\^'''"'' ^^ V^t mor« 
Sue's face. ^ *'""^* ^^^^ °ever seen before on 

They went to sleep, both of th^ 
Chappy. She taew^Selo^T; ™^^h later. Sue was 

sweU. And though nol S\n ^1"°* "*"y ^™' such a 
innocent to think^of an^hlg el^^Ti '^' ^ '^ *«> 
her eyeUds sank down ^e whic^ J 7^^."" *^^ ^ark. as 
would not have tolTTiytne^^^^ *° ^^'^ ^^^^ she 
on him I " She baske5^for\ uSe jh?"^ V " ^'"^ ^°°« 
then added : « And ve^. nice tt f -""^^ "* **^^ t^°"Sht. 

someUr rSn^ ^t wher^-. ^^« ^^<^ -^--d 
whether it was R^he ^d nof t'' '* ""^ ^^'^ ^"«"s or 
confused dream ; it sLm^ to ^°^',^^ ^' had been a 
eggs. What had el^o Ho .?/^^^heen mainly about 
so much, that she S out .nlS'V* • ^^ t'-^^Wed her 
Northboume Ro^d^d ^4^^?^.*' v' '^^'-^'^ » 
^orapenny. It was not vti^^L :"i^arfeffe;^^^^ 



^ 



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2X0 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



IN 



■s*. 



or a letter from Australia. She disregarded the omen, for 
akeady she was happy enough to think that she coiild 
master fate. 

§4 

In those times Huncote wished he were more of a world- 
ling. He lived, he felt, too much in the Settlement and 
for it. Analyang the last eight or nine months, it seemed 
that he had given it nearly all his time during the day ; 
in the evening he had often been wanted for a concert, a 
meeting. When not wanted he had loafed away his time 
withChurton, or at Ford's boxing-class, or even in the 
" Progress Arms." The chief breaks had been a few week- 
ends at St. Olaves, and for a while in June Flora had been 
exacting, had compeUed his attendance at theatres ; he had 
been asked out to dinner a httle, too, but all that was the 
surface. He had given the Settlement the whole of his 
neophyte ardour. And now he was not thinking of the 
Settlement, but of an incident in Settlem«it work. He 
tried to be reasonable, to minimise the incident while there 
was time. Very seriously, on a hot night, he sat in Fins- 
bury Park under a chestnut tree, still heavy with pink 
castles. He was formulating his mtentions. He formu- 
lated them for a very long time, head down, making a 
pendulum of his walking-stick, looking so far away that 
two girls who went by felt sorry for him, and talked loud 
to indicate ready sympathy. But he had quite enouph 
bother with girls as it was, and the upshot of b"' /; 
reflections was that he was not going to do anythuig rash. 
Oh no, not going to make himself ridiculous with a silly 
intrigue. He was going to be very distant, and see what 
happened. He was ^oing to investigate, and see what 
she was really like. Hang it all! He had seen life, he was 
not going to be carried away by a pretty face. Then in the 
moonlight upon the light earth at his feet, with the point 
of his walking-stick, a& ii a power held his hand, he tried 
to sketch a woman's profile. 



I 



THE WONDERPOOLS 



2IZ 



§5 



Sue felt the confidential impulse If «h. i,,^ v 

Roman CathoUc she would ha^SedinM^K ^^^ "" 
with a tiny little sin -nH Z "^*°*^®*^°"'«ssional 

great big abSfuC ^v T °"* ^°™^°rtable with a 
Church of EiSrd so Sdlm T* * "''"^^ <>' the 
not hkely evefTo tlSuclfSeXX'''^?^' ^.^ ^^ 

rn,e^.^r .h-s hrdid^?^^^ - 

delightfal ; h^n^^^^'^^f- '« « was too 
not for those o£ iov For^hTn?^' ?'•*' "^>^ "'•»»; 
tamed to the wS Z^^wi ^'^u'". '"^ *« »»«"ra"y 

half-hoped that 2e ±sT, fl k"""^^' '^ ^^ «=«fy 

and rather fast about m.^^£'^„';^'^T 

s oi't^t.-^'^rif"''""" ^™ 

-.d sometimes ^T^f:Zt:^^\T^? 

virtue. She wi^wL r„~?f"?' ^ ^ «» Ada's 
thought she a?no mSn S^ *"*?? *"^'' "«»«• 
hop4that she did mraTth^jJ'.T''' 1^ ="" ^ue 
Ada a dashing, myste^^us^ti^^^^f "^= »' 

^wS^^^^-'^-^-^^^^^^SlJ^of^^ 

StS:.":heS ^^ t,tSin'L«r^3' ««- Tub. 
loolcnff so smart in ♦w r *PP°"^*^ to meet. Ada was 

nice blue eyes in the fresh fof. . T f '5«s. They were 
little pink moutht-^iXiin"" ""^^ ""^ '^^ 



t 

i I 



I 



, I 



( 



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!( 



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2X2 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



" HeUo ! " said Ada. 

" HeUo I " said Sue. Ada was a heUo girl, ani admiring 
Sue copied. 

They walked up Regent Street, Ada chattering steadily 
of the day's events in the manicure parloiu:, which was 
just ofi Regent Street. Sue tried to listen for a while 
and to say the right thing, such as " An' what did he say 
to that?" or "WeU, I never," but the shop-windows 
fascinated her. Ada, who was blasee, swept her past 
Swan^& Edgar's. 

" And you wouldn't believe it, as soon as he got in, he 
took me on his knee and started cuddhng me." 
" What did you do ? " asked Sue. " Smack his face ? " 
Ada giggled: "Wouldn't be much of a success if I 
did that. Sat on my dignity." 
" And on his knee ? " asked Sue, suddenly brilliant. 
Ada laughed : " Well, not long, what d'yer take me 
for ? " 

Sue managed to anchor the worldling outside the 
Samaritaine, and for a moment all was well ; they decided 
that these models were not their style. The conversation 
passed from gallantry to dress. 

" I always say," Ada repeated, " whatever you do, wear 
something that's becoming. Never mind the fashions." 

" Yes," said Sue, much impressed, " that's true. Only 
how's one to know ? " 

The learned Ada imveiled mysteries : how, if one was 
stout and wore vertical stripes, one looked slim; how 
a small waist should be emphasised (for she believed in 
waists) by a white belt ; how to judge a colour by laying 
it against your cheek ; how to reduce large features by 
broadening hat brims. It was very wonderful. Sue 
thought. All the way up Regent Street Sue gave the cues. 
Sue forced Ada to stand awhile and stare at the beautiful 
lady in wax who tiptoes on one foot to show how one 
can wear orange silk stays and lingerie like the tip of a 
wave, and yet behave like an acrobat. 



THE WONDERPOOLS 



213 

- ^fii'"*^ out-size." she moaned. She drew herself ud • 

StiU. It's not everybody dislikes that" cL ^1 

confidences. ^ *^^*' ^^^ murmured 

Jue blushed: "No. not reaUyl" she said in a thrilled 

degenerate. The feUow who had offered Ada stdb lla 
to remmiscenres of other fellows, and natur^yto^rt 
Ada was mterested in Bert, for under her dog^y extS^ 
w^ a fraudulently simple person. She lik^Ttd^lS 

bu^es, but Sue knew very well that behind the nseS^ 

XJr ' ™°'"* °^ ^®^ paralysed gas-fitter anda 
gy grey mother who "let^ T. when she 

" Those fellows." Ada summed up " thev'r# »n !,•»>.* * 

and Ada s=ud: "You take it from me; ge«^e^ S 

iney raice us out and give us a good time but th^v 
don t marry us. not they ! Not that I'd ^ one tf he 

shfspokef ^"^""^ ^ ^^" ^ Sue's mind; at laS 
" Do you know Mr. Huncote ? " 
A^ thought for a litUe; she had been to a Settlement 



)l 



i« 



> J 



', ^ 



' f 









ai4 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

^iS ? *S^' " ^'* ^y ^ ^«'" s^« s^d. at last ; " what's 
he^hke? Where did you pick him up ? " 

" I didn't pick him up," said Sue. indignanUv - Yoi, 
saw ham at the dance the other day very'^Th; is. Z 

- S«^ .^^'^f. ""^ ^"^^ ^^' °^' ^«* *Wck fair h^.« 
Sue ! said Ada, meaningly. 

his^ ha^I'-^ir ""l^"" *^' '"^'^'''" = " Yo« should see 
ms Hands she went on sentimentally, "they're like 

iheywer;%« ' * W«"' "^^ ^^at a baby's would be if 

"Hem." said Ada. "been holding 'em?- Sue went 
cnmson. "I see." said Ada. "I femember the fcTw 
now seems to me you danced a lot with him that mT 

tt.\T.l ^^"' ^ ^^ y°« l"<^i^- Don't vou f™S 
w^t^ I told you about genUemen. Don't make yoS 

th;;i?notin^t^ "^' '"«' ^*^^-«y'* "^^^^ 

iJi,^^: "*''" ^^^ '^*^' "^' *=°"^ not- Anybody could 
look at you and see there's nothing in it sSS t W, 
nothing in it tell me all about it^^ 

Sue grew sulky and offended; she had to have her 
™«Sf^^^' *** ^ *°^*^ °°t to swank, before at last s^ 

raStry^^X."^^"^ ^^" ^'^ ^""- ^ *^ 
"Came round to the wash-house, die- he?" said Ada 
^^ judical: "Stm, he „*« have wanted tte 

Sue defended Huncote. mferentiaUy attacked She 
felt gmlty. for era, Ada could not be told aU ; a ^timart 
Wf^dest. hall^cmi, invented her £„,; teS^Jl 

toBo^h^h^ '^'^ on the banks of the d^ 
Mow by the cropped gigantic trees. It was enoiS 

;^*.^Ht^."^"^ a link o, son* kind betJ^' 
"K Bert hadn't gone on so," she said. 
That seemed to excuse and stimulate her. Little by 



THE WONDERPOOLS 



SZ5 

little Ada accepted the interesting situation and Sue beiran 
to develop her attitude : she was going to be rw^ 
in fart haughty, like Sir Lucius's youn7lady Sh?Se 

w^ct^r:in^"^^*^" "^ ^^^^ ^'^'- ^^ w^S 

on" ^Ja"-} i r?^ \ " '^* ^'**' " ^'™ not going to let 
Zy.) ''"• ^" ^^" " ^^ S^ L"^*"^'^ young 

^' What'lJ you do ? " asked Ada. 

" Oo I dunno. Say he'U want to do something for me 

Sd?«"lu^'t;'^Lf"'**^°'^^^^' Or-hatwiitT;^ 
said ? Sue thought for a moment : " Yes. what she always 
saysis. ' I am totaUy indifferent thereto.'" ^ 

" Thereto, that's a good word," said Ada 
iJT" ^"^ half-sentimental, half^tately : " Wish I'd a 
tram, she said, "just to practise sweeping in and out 
3^u know, m and out of rooms. She 4s^alwaJ^ do^ 

T^ere was a pause. Ada grew serious : 
You're quite sure it's aU right ?" she said. "I know 
somethmg about that game." 

" Oh. there's no harm in it," said Sue. " It's not as if 
I was gone on him." 

ab^S^SrtT-"""'*'" "^^ ^^' " ^''' ^ ^°"'* ^^^ ' ^^* 

it 12!i' J'"'\f "^ ^"*: '^y^y ^^ y^ P^^*"y' ^o' she was. 
Il!5^',?^*^' P^**^" "'^^ *^^«d o^ ^»nen : to have 
to choose between two men. " it might be a bit ark^d 
Of coui^. but . . ." She stop^ to thtok t^T^' 
was reaUy very fond of Bert, but JSdingZ^cuJi ^ 

sorce from Bert, and the sooner he knows it the better 
^ r^- •. • •' ^^" ^^'^^^^ "pother drea^ wtere 

ScT'J^S^^^''''"^.? ^^ ^°^^ ^ magnanimou^y 
t^ l^ck «id ^med. Meanwhile therTtould bTa 

v^e^tog Auction with the sweU. She was «^ 

vulgar, but she was nineteen, and it was all such fun 



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«6 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

tm, girU rr^y t^ik to two m« wMe o^gS^y „^^ 

o one man. And quite near Paradise Row ™y iSd^^ 

ma long gaze at a picture-postcaid shop and S»^™ 

jam.on.ous because Ada prefe^d 4 i^^"^ 

^^^ i"f to time to get home for tea. 
m^eTmtlige.rt^fHS"-^^^'^ 

atuf J^ **?' ""» '- ™^cS^«^"^ri3 
S"£r^'^g-»--£HwS 

S^«.^ JT* **^fig^. not a woman ^d a m^ 
Huncote had one hand in his nocki.* 3^«Z? j ? 

not to taow that dK ™ wearing her best Sm^^ 



THE WONDERPOOLS 



.ttitode of si Lr^J^^ uH^h** "*'«'"' 

cote I" But arr« Srj"" 'I""'"" "»■ «'• Kto^ 
vivid. And R4erHm?l'?,7K2?V '"' "^ "'"W 
as the haughty head Tlil n^?* '~- '" "' had seen! 

that he had never seen befa,^ i„ . ""^^ *>™lWng 

»mething which he^SoS Z fV^lt' '^''- "« 
for it. It was the InvI-warTT F *" *"<■ •><«" waitinif 

gay.a lookTattade toUrlr' ''^""'' ^^ "^ 
the tide was rising on a sS^^^:^"" ". '""'"'^.■^'" 
<or a moment throueh th. rt?» Li ' '"' ""*>" shining 
And th«, i. war^"S^'a'a^'^'^' « '^' -- 

vaguely: ' I*ft sometiShere tt „,h "T'' "■«" ^'J 
to fetch it." ^^ ™ """er night, came round 

foJndl"?^" """""' "^""^ vast interest. " have you 
loJlf^t" ""• '•^ ""^S"^- " I'" have to have another 

of something so iL^Th^^^-'h^^lves in the os. 
awkward. Thw^S^Sa^ ,.^ "',■"!*"" "™ "^""-^ 

iwo people wrecked as smgi j 



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«i8 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

children from separate ships at opposite ends of a desert 
island and who come upon each other in their maturity 
man and woman, afraid, delighted, curious, each casting 
mterwted but covert glances upon a strange, attractivl 

" I'll have to be going.- said Sue. 

-Are you in a hurry ? " said Huncote. He did not want 
to know that, only he felt he must prolong this minute : 
he had come to the moment which Faust so desired, could 

bSIutif il - ^*^ "^'*** • " ^"^ y'* ^^*' *^°« art so 
" I must be getting home.- said Sue. vaguely, but stiU 

die did not go. She stood in front of him. her brown 

fingere entwmmg nervously. Then Huncote. because he 

was the s» yer of the tw. plunged : 
"Oh, well." he said, jauntily. " I'm going, too.' 

J^""!^ J?r^' «*^*y '^*"* *^°"8 ^^ co^idor and 
out of the bmldmg. Huncote leading and she submissive. 

They made no plans. There was no understap'lin.- but 
M they came out of the SetUement they did not turn to 
the left and across towards Paradise Square ; slowly and 
silently they turned to the right by the High Street. At a 
comer Huncote said : ^ «i « 

" One can't hear oneself talk here." 

"No." said Sue. though she knew very weU that neither 
had said a word. « it's the trams." 

They turned up a side street and through other Uttle 
streets, straight northwards, as if they had agreed that they 
did not want to be seen together in the High Street. Aftor 

a few moments Huncote grew self-conscious : assumimr 

she did not know where he lived, he said : 

^-I^hope you don't mind my taking you out of your 

" Oh, don't mensh," said Sue. 

Thqrwmt on silently through the littie streets where 
hundreds of children played hopscotch, and here and there 
a large woman with red aims talked to another of her 



THE WONDERPOOLS 



«nd. or exchanged chaif with a canvasser «!«>-«.* ■ 
or^ her a photograph enlar^e;^„r^' who was trying 
ihey went across Northboume Road Su# • u**u * • u. 

thmg to raise the spirit of the sleepy hoUow A^ «^ 
« rlfi^ we go in ? • asked Huncote. observing the board • 

Amtralia to one who has „«,er fdt hi vilL t^° 
Mm, Sue munnured. "Just my aW^^LK? 

?Sr'*^e'L""t'C'"?'«^'"' ^'^= ^^ 

.. .t . ?■« *^ "ot oSmd the man's finer tart»^ 
M she looked, with her dark eye. dow^^ . 

<h«P m her fuD «1 n^th. she ^.™SSf «ll2«J 



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THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



mdancholy, of young Ufe weeping over young life gone to 
dust. 

" Susannah." he said, " that's your name. too. I think." 

" No," said Sue. " my name's Susan." She threw him a 
sidelong glance to see if this displeased him. " Wish it 
wasn't," she added. 

" What ? " cried Huncote. " You don't Uke it ? But 
It's a jolly name, a real country name." 

" Yes." said Sue. grudgingly, " it was all along of grand- 
ma. She came from Sussex, and she would have it. Mother 
ought to've known better," she added, peevishly. " Only 
she was afraid the savings would be left away from us • 
not that we got them after aU, for grandma was took 
with reUgion and left them to the blacks in Africa." 

Huncote laughed at the little tragedy. « You may laugh " 
said Sue. rather resentful. « but if it hadn't been for that 
I'd been called Vera. Now that's a name. Muriel's aU 
nght; she was bom after grandma died." She grew 
resigned: " Still, what's in a name ? " 

Huncote said nothing, and for a moment wondered 
whether he would have Uked it better if instead of " what's 
in a name ? " she had said, as he remembered a school- 
mistress once said to him. rather arch and conscious of 
onginality: "A rose by any other name would smell as 
sweet." 

Little by Uttle. as they walked round and round the 
cemetery, conscious now of themselves and but Uttle of 
watchful, patient death, Huncote talked more freely. 
^ "I thought you mightn't like to come here," he said. 
"You might have thought it depressing; you oughtn't 
to, you know. Death, you see, is so necessary to life ; it 
takes away those things and those people who have played 
their part, and it makes room for the new. Death is no 
enemy, it has no sting; it is nothing more than the 
gardener, who roots out the old plants and makes room 
for to-morrow's flowers, don't you think so ? " 
" Yes,- said Sue. 



THE WONDERPOOLS' 



221 

It was a beautiful idea/ il-oacote went on " to build 

Trinifv nf Wr+i, 1 . ' "^<^'ee ', you had a Holy 

innity of buth, love, an i ceath. the thr«. #.t«.™-,i *u-^ 

« Pi7 1°PP^^ ^°^ ^ moment before a fresh grave that of 

Just beyond a smoke-stack was crowned with a «S^f b?^ 
doud of smoke, like a djimi escaping froiTa b^ttiT B^v 
tiie smoke, bloody the *y, and sh^Tt. as if iint^^^ 
purpk xnk the roofs close-clustered^he sS^^*"^ 
Isn t It wonderful ? " he said ^^^'^^S sun. 

" Isn't it ?" said Sue. 

how vell^ S* t?r ""l"* ^' ,"^^* • ^« ^ thinking 

laea that she was so much, and could become so mm^ 

Sir?r\^^^- Hebegantot^^Lh^S 
bmsdf. of beauty now and of the comers whS^S 

of the strange fact that it was nowhere and every^hS 

fourJ^'' ^" '^°^ *° P^^^« "' th^t beauty^ S 

S^',wv^°^ 'y""' ^^ th^t "aybe. if you wire ^ 
made, aU thmgs might become beautiful. 

«h. r * ??Pu^*^^^y' "°t understanding, yet delighted • 

itk^ Ttti^h'^'H^"' ?^^ ^^ *° his'woils a^d :2; 
looked at his hands, gentleman's hands. But at last she 



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THE STRANGERS' WEDDHVG 



had to speak, and now she was no longer Sir Ludus's young 
lady. Impetuously she said : 

" Oo, you ate clever ! " 

He laughed, he was flattered ; he hated himself for being 
flattered, and yet went on being flattered. 

" Nonsense," he said, with affected modesty. 

" Oh, yes, you are," said Sue, urgent champion. " You 
could do anything, you could. Why, there's a lady that 
does Answers to Correspondents in Home Choi . 
weU ..." 

He shrank ; it was a Uttle awkward to have conveyed 
to him that he might, well, perhaps might be the equal of 
such a one. Still he was pleased : for the first time she 
had praised him directly, Unked herself with him by per- 
sonal opinion. Bond of thread or bond of silk, what did 
it matter after all just then, if only bond there was ? 

At the end he said, surprised to find his voice uncertain : 
" I say, we might ... we might come out again . . , 
if we happen . . ." 

" I might nm across you," said Sue, airily. 

§7 

Huncote found it very difficult to talk to his mother that 
week-end. Flora got into his way by begging him gently 
to persuade Mrs. Huncote not to go to Harrogate, but to 
take her to Dieppe or some other naughty place. And 
Elspeth was a nuisance, too, because she had just joined the 
Antis, and was conducting a vigorous campaign of conver- 
sion against her mother; as Mrs. Huncote took in 
the Common Cause (but not the Suffragette), and had 
vaguely approved of militancy until the previous week, 
when the house of some friends of hers was burnt down, 
she was much troubled. 

But at last, on Simday night, when they were alone in 
the garden, he managed to talk. They at last disposed of 
suffrage and of another complicated doubt of Mrs. Hun- 
cote's, namely, whether she should sympathise with the 



TxIE WONDERPOOLS 



223 

fara«s whose henroosts were being raided by foxes or 
mtii the local hunt to which, after all. her hi^band h^d 
belonged Huncote was also told every detaiT^f^^^ 
final misfortune, which was to be sued for affiliatioT 
4 say. he remarked, quite casually, " there's rather a 

Know ium, I spose; his name's . . . Corrv- Hp 
improvised. "He was at Gabriel with me; pSv c1 
money and all that, and I hear he wants to . . ^ to 
many . . . weU. a girl of the people." 

Oh, she s lovely," he said, hurriedly, « she's very verv 
pretty and she's an awfully sweet girl " "'^'^i ^S? 

^ mat does she do ? " said IVfrs. Huncote. obstJtely. 
^ne ... oh, shes m a factorv Rnf ^t,"!'- 
aw^y ^fined. and aU that. At leit V^yst." 

*h!^' ^T2*® ^^ "°*^"S ^°^ * wWIe. She stared at 
fat vT'"'^' ""^^'^ '"^ '^' ^"^"^* ^'^er nigM the 
hi ^^^ ^fnias spread Uke hands. She playS^d?h 
the fluffy cockade of a hollyhock, and said • 
Poor boy I Can't anybody stop it ? " 

anH^w'*,!^^ ^'" "^^ """"^*^' g^^d that it was night 
and tl^t she could not see his face tOo well ^^hl 

P^^e^^i " ^^t. a^^r all. why should one s^op it V?-'" ^' 
My dear Roger 1 " said Mrs. Huncote. halfScandahsed 
how can you talk like that ? I really thoushT^ou 
were grown up. You teU me Mr. Cony is one of us ^nS 

K othe^^^^iid! vruri!^r^-p^^^^^^^ 

possible. What are her people ? " ^^ ^ """ 

I e^S!^ ^°'^'" "^^ *^' ^^y ^*^' " *^« "^'^ ^ ; 

♦J^'^^^; J^«"sual, decent, respectable sort; perhaos 
the mother's been a servant, and I s'pose the f^th^^S 



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224 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

drunk now and then. It's social suicide, to begin with- 

rJ^S' '^" ^* ^'* *^^ P^^P^^^y- ^"d when it cTme^ 
to entertaining . . why. it's absurd I You wait untU 
Mr. Corry sees the clothes she weare." 

Huncote murmured something about love. 

" Yes. I know." said Mrs. Huncote. more softly. " That's 

m love one doesnt care about class or about anything 
except love ; only, you see, tWe's not only love in the 
world ; one has to think of all sorts of other things " 

,« Ji^"^^* ^°^ "^^'^ ^ ^^*' ™°t^«^'" ^d her son. 
suddenly aggressive. 

^hy. you ^ow that. And one day I'm si^ that ev^- 
body will be educated, and that everybody can mix 
together, but ,ust now it can't be done. I hope I'm niS 

Sem » '^'^^' ^""^ ^ **°'''* ™* y°" *** "'^ °"« ^« 

He laughed, but nervously: to be himself involved 

even as an instance was frightening. No. he would get 

^vp^ fi, ' *' *^''"^^*- ^" ^ ^°"6' he was bekg 
given the most powerful heip that can be given youth- 
opposition. ^ j'"UM* . 

§8 

It was in a picture-palace rather late one afternoon 
when Sue was free because the great lady of Highbury's 
blouse was so extra special that Mrs. Groby had to wSh 
it herself, that Huncote remembered Theresa. He had 

«^'5\™'''^ f ?'■■ J^ *^" ^^* f«w ^ks. Tbe heat 
affected her. and she had not been much in the Settle- 

Tu J^*^ ^^^^^^ *^* ^* *h® ^-^C- opposite Bubwith's 
md he had seen her nearly home through Regent's Park 
He remembered very little of the convereation ; indeed 
next to nothing except that he had felt inclined to teJI 
her what was happening to him. But his mother's reply 
had discouraged him from asking advice, for he was nc^ 






THE WONDERPOOLS 



Jrt qmicJ aioagh to own that when on, asks somehod. 

-rvtit !?:?- =°^- -^ 

instinrt' noTTeSon teX''"™^ ""'"■^- That wj 

wman shev,2Tch,™,„?^ *" ''"'"5' "> ^ 
ing. like the X ''■^^J P«^n«. she was surround- 

i. was h^^^;;:',':?.^„j,~„y<'^- w Why': 

mmmm 

She like a chM'4^"„,r'2;,n^ tlff"^' ?°^ '™' 
at the Zoo, and he rather elLlTlilL tt™'!^''.'"^ 

as if she whispered to he^U Now J.H S ""^^^^ 

for^hjn^" ll^d to go with hhn toTm^taii: 
for she loved mnsic-halls, but they wei» ^«w^w 

^™onss7'?s^v'^tfr^^^'^' 



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aa6 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

velvet tip-up seats were in her mind. Only she was not 

Tn ^* ?"^'J^ ^" "^«"*<^' ^^' thouS n^ ^d 
then they hngered before the posters of the Camden, she 
dared not say anything. It never stiuck Huncote that 
such a thing could tempt her: for him the music-haU 
would for ever be associated with that year-old nieht 
when he got drunk and fell. He did not understMid 
her delight m the crude, the elementary; he over- 
rated her capacity for romance, and though he over- 
rated It he wanted to exaggerate it. He felt, though he 
did not know, that romance was the only way that 
romance, seeker and watcher in lonely places, could alone 
bnng them together, because the reahty was so impossible 
that only m the unreal could they dweU. So. led by this 
instinct, he took her to - Monsieur Beaucaire." which a 
nunor company was reviving one night at the Holloway. 
In another mood he would have noticed the strange cowd 
the fat men with fat wives in the staUs (Sue had attained 
to tip-up seats) which might have made one think that 
nobody hved in Holloway except pubhcans : the cheerful 
ganshness of the scenery would have attracted him But 
he was not now at the theatre with men. with flighty 
Flora, or impersonal Theresa: his entertainment w^ 
much more subtle : he was witnessing the drama of Sue 
entenng into the drama. She was excited ; he could see 
her knuckles grow white as she clenched her hands on the 
edge of the seat ; he loved her indignation when Monsieur 
Beaucaire. so high-born (so hke Sir Lucius, had he but 
known it), was treated as a barber. She was the ideal 
audience; sometimes she seemed about to weep, then 
frankly she would laugh ; when she wanted to laugh she 
nudged hun because she wanted him to share her pleasure 
A few people noticed them, and sighed sentimentaUy.' 
thmking what a charming couple they made. But. as 
the play grew aU dramatic and Monsieur Beaucaire's 
love developed. Sue became rapt. She laughed a httle 
hystencaUy when for the first time Monsieur Beaucaii* 



THE WONDERPOOLS 



touched the high-bom maiden's hand qv. . 

play, in the play, beca^ thlL • , ^ 'W of the 
hatred, conte^J^^ y^ti^T T^^* f"°*^'™«' ^"ve. 
could feel. Shed^d!!rsJ^k?,„',$%«^"^d unde^tand 
and Huncote, charm;d brhl^^lTL*^* ^*«^^' 
draw her out. It was ZvZ..T??^' ^^ "*** ^ to 
the theatre, as they wen^ I^S f **'• ^^^ they left 

I don't know." she said. 
"r^,^ looked at Mm and bteh.? ''^ " *^' 

: About What ?''X ^y ,.' ™ ""'y *''''*^" 

BeauSi 'y^. \ **"* ^i,,™ *^8 «ha' Monsi«ir 
Badger » cL " ^' ."""en he said to Captain 

« * ftepart wh^'a^'g^^ ' " ^-^ know wST? 
God, I'm ^ a ?L^'^,%'^^y= to him. ■ Tlank 
»y thajis with yo^trTweT "' "^- ' """^ "^ 
*eU, what did you think ? • ' ' " 

• ae ^^ 15^ ^^^ » p„ud then. Uk. 

s-s^dTnor^FHSS^H---' 

and. groping at her ^f 7 J't "^^ ^^ ^ ^^to hers. 

TheyS^l^t:^^ bTsotSfed':;"^' ^^ ^^^^ ^*' 
th. embrace of thdr hanis^. , ' ^^^"s only of 

;:rh^he.--~f-^vlr4:!:^t - 

-^ were ^ven .^e ^uTcrpLn:? ^^^^^^ 



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328 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

lovMtorm. never to come again unless the loven can 
sua«ssfuUy navigate through troubled wateis. They 
had neaiiy reached Paradise Square before they spoke 
again, and did not want to release each other. Just tten 
Huncote g vfr self-conscious. 

yo^uf'i^d'^"-""™'^'^' "y°" *^°°'* "^^ "y ^^^^ 

TTie girl did not reply. She seemed to hesitate. Then 
suddenly she wound her fingers ii.to his and pressed them 
hard as if she wanted to hurt him. She looked at hun 
Thtr "" * ''°'*^® ^^^^'^ ^°'^' said: "Good- 

She walked away quickly, as if running away. He 
despised hmiself a Uttle later because he had not followed 

il^ ,^ / u* ^^ " Good-ni§ht ' " he had seen the 
wonderpools of her eyes, gleaming like wood-brown water 
under willows. . . . 

Huncote was not thinking any more. The time for that 
had gone the tune for action come, and yet he took no 

*«hu" f. * ""^u"^^ "^"^ ^^S *^«" by the impene- 
trabte. fugitive thmg which was each of them, and toth 

Seh^'l^dw * ^^"^** ^°™ ^^ **' ^^' *^^ ""^^ ""^ 
One Satilrday afternoon he tried to take her to a 

^f^? ^IJ'^'^' ^""^ *^" ^°"^ ^ ^' and doubtless 
aj other theatres would be full too : it was so fine, he 

b^^L. T-* K'^ \^ ^''' "P- So he persuaded 
ZT ^u*^' ""^^'^ ^* ^*' ^^^S very grand and 
afr^d. with the hood down and all ^ndon. ^kn^ 
loofang at her. a sparkle in her eye. just like one of the 
children m Paradise Row when it has been given a very 
^ge sugarstick. They were stiff and self-coLious. both 
Of them, on that triumphant drive. Sue's firet drive in a 
f^o!!f *^^„^7« ^* eightpence a mile. But very soon 

S,?^ *^!,^Y''' "^^^"^ *^* ^y ^^^ ^^re many people 
piayuig. httle boys at cricket, older boys at love^Vy 
were veiy close together, so close that they could have 



raE WONDERPOOiS jj, 

S^F^.*^"?^ to «ch other M th. fi« 

^.^ sr..^r h'S2oA'ij%^/:'l.5 

«aw to him. Sue of the njarriage of a frienH • ♦!!«/ 
afraid of it. but could nntlvoidit ^ ' ^^ 7"* 
with anecdote and reL^ «. iJ , ^^^ veiled love 
humour oTeuijc^^ Bu^'in ^.?^*^'?^ ^eU it with 
attitude ap^^^p?;*' "^ ^^** °' ^^ «ti«nce. Sue's 

In answer to a contradiction, she said: 
of hW.- "''''' "^^ ^y'^y ^' not if I was fond 

Huncote thrilled as she said " fond of him - r* 

•» Uie novels of 1885: wedding bells and tapp "e^ .^^ 

oftvi"'^"''!!!?' *™'='«'»» «h»y passed to the denees 
p.a^Ste^l.ercc'^ »*°i„rM 

^^e^ogethe. nndes™.. ^ ^^ :rh':thr*: 

.c«|i^:;;j:^^-;:s:ttr.-^ ^°'^«-* 

«no„s.y. vaguely th^of ^Z.^^^^' ;:SLr5 
the last moment hopin. .h,t WendsWp migS p^,e^' 

serous 



dangerous that 



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*aft THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

Mfl^tening. But it was no use. they knew it very wdl ; 

^.^'^ ^"^ P"* ** "*« ^"J*' «th« of them 
but the thjrd being, their child and leader, was whispering 
to them th«t they were fools, that no longer did themaa 
thmk of educatuj and raising the people, bat the woman 

Ad not want a flirtation tempered by haughtiness. They 
were just two young people who had fallen in love. He 
put both han<b upon her shoulders and felt them tremble 
through the thin stuff. She drew away from him. and 
as ^e so did came closer. He was afraid, for the feel 
of thoM film shoulders in his hands shook him. repeUed 
as It drew him: this was too sharp a delight. But 
sfaU. so shaken, they did not move away from each 
other. Indeed, they drew closer, and yet closer, until 
she was aU gathered in his arms, crumpled small 
w *^ .ij*«f' dehghted and afraid, pressing against 

^ '"Aw,.^*' '''^^^*' *" " ^« *>«8S«i him to hold 
her so tight that evea if she wanted to she could not run 
away. ••»«*« 

^Sue." he^ munnured. «I love you; you've known 

She did not reply, but he thought her cheek pressed 
heavier apinst his breast. He bent down, raising her 
face a htt^e so that he could look into the eyes veutd by 

l%^wu^- ^^ *""'" ^' ^^ *«^' do you love 
me? Will you marry me ? " 

She did not reply for a long time, but there lay smilimr • 

she was sleepy in his grasp, and he stirred by thefaint 

samt of her hair. As she so lay her smile was that of a 

child that dreams a happy dream. Then she opened her 

*^S' !? . ""l^^ ^* *^^ ^* ^^ t^«n as they were 
with their different colours, the opalescence of their 
whites and the incredulous joy in them, a Uttle Kght in 
each eye. hke a beacon. 

• Oh." she said. " but . . .- 
" But what ? " 

•But you and I . . . we're different" 



THE WONDERPOOLS 131 

He bent lower: -What doei it matter if I love yor 
and you love me ? • ^ 

h„^»* ^^l""* wply. and for a moment over both of them 
h^ a fibny certamty that it did matter. It pa^ 

Jr2;i*f"**i ^'y '"«" A*^ and Eve in the (ku^ 
instructed, and the Serpent slunk away. ^^' 

^hl?K *i* ""™««d- And movid by instinct rather 
than mtention. she raised her face a Utile towards wT 
They were aU alone then, as with mingled Ups and eyei 
drowmng eyes they blotted out the woiid. 






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CHAPTER THE FIFTH 

THE TWILIGHT OF ST. OLAVES. 

Si 
- 1 S'POSE youll be taking a holiday soon." said Churton 
Huncote looked up from the Settlement accounte S 
he was nmnmg through with the vouchers X to the 
auditors vasit He had not been, he found^ Lng hL 
mind very weU upon the figures ; he had be;n thiSdi 
Of sometlung else and so he felt :t quite natural to^ 

^ What ? " cried Churton. " You're not 
Yes. 1 am." said Huncote. defiantly. prei)arid"to find 
opposition before it arose. *^ 

"Oh, weU." said Churton, "my dear feUow i 

paused. '°"^*^**« y°"- • • . I'd no idea l'» He 

h^^T** JJ^ ^?.^"S ^* *^"* "'*^^ watchfuUy as if he 
had observed m his voice what indeed was there enw 
f^t disgust. For Churton had assumed with iT'deS 

rsjTof s^i^nft'ar"'' "• '' ^*' ^^ ^^-^^^ ^* 

h^i^'^'i^L ?^ T°] °°' " ^ "^^^'^ ^e'^ there was any- 
body. Might 1 ask. do I know her ? " ^ 

•;0h, yes." said Huncote, airily. "Miss Susan Grobv" 
Miss Susan Groby 1 " said Churton. reflectiW - yS 
I^seem to know that name. ..." He willed S 

" Yes, you do know the name," said Huncote. " She's 



TOE TWIUGHT OF ST. OIAVES ,3, 

one of tba girb whs eoines to tha .9«»k_w_. . j ^ 

«y. I "^'t*° • • • ■."Wtaow-wW.o 

tunn?- W ' ^. ' ' ' y°«^ loiowTi her soma 

^Y« ^1"^ T?. *° ^^ * '«^ '^"^d^ to tLT^ 
les, some months," said Hunmt« " v«« ^^ 

her. don't you ? She'i ^ d^T^n i 2 I S^^^ 
pretty ; dolo't you T" ^^ ' *°d ^ ^^ her rather 

He felt mischievous. Churton said nothm- / 
««oment ; he remembered thr^l Zth Ster^h^ i,* 

"My dear fellow I'm ,' . *'®*=*™* benevolent. 

He made a broad gesture- - wk^., * , ' * ' 

each nthAr gesture. When two people care for 

«TKT?,^,• -u- "» sP'te of all different - 

Ihat-n do; thanks awfully, old chap" ' ' * 

Huncote felt he was doing fairly well for a fWoi « 

.t h«i gone ofi ail right, and'^h.n k^SS^n„Jt: 



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234 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

tite Settkment in the evening it was dear that the Com- 
nuttee, who received the infonnation in the aftern^ 
Sin^ «m. am. an amazed resolution to SH 

as she clasped his hands m her saurian fingers. Piatt wm 
large and bold and beaming, and smackSt hinT on ^ 
shoulder several times, after which he asked ll not to 

pered by regard for the daims of democracy. And 
^. Ramsey said she was glad to hear he was goinTto 

she was surprised, presumably because it had not occurred 

■m I'^c^A "^ l'^^^'^ "^°" habitual l^^S^ 
m Buaios Ayres. It all went very well, and the few 
frequenter of the Settlement who foiid ou Merely Ip^ 

m^. ^^"^l" ^^ "°* ^^ *^ *^ to them atoS W^ 
mam^e. but it was quite dear that they looked up^ 

taon It ^ impossible to teU. Indeed. aU would have 
gone admirabty if later in the evening George Sree„ ^^ 
not appeared m the lobby flushed with infor^tior 

Good evenmg. Mr. 'Uncote. congratulate you I i hear 
you re gomg to settle down?" 
" Yes,* said Huncote. 

"Nothing like it my boy. nothing like it ! I know the 

^,: ^'V*. i^y *~-'' A fl'^^ 'o^ into ^1^ 
white dieeks: Remember her quite well ; I'dadanavSS 
her the other time, you remember. No 'kim ^T S^ 
g^ls. I don't gy." He prodded Huncote with li* e W 

felt very hot about the eyes ; he did not reply, and Geon* 
Gre«i w«it on : - You take it from me.X'^rnioS? 

wichaUmehfe. Someofthem . . . wS redV-™ 
am't in it. I could teU you a thing or'tVl:^^^ 



THE TWIU6HT OF ST. OLAVES ,35 

■HKn, sentimentally, hi ^■%T'"f^.'^- 
W. attention >^- Z^t^ ^J^'l ^ 
nwvmg from right to left t™™. .„^ ' *"<> '™» 
tte door. "DW know S^^n J*I f"' '^"' «» 
you'U excuse to saST'so f a^ftV "1° '^^ "» 
that sort. / never Sj ^l. ■■ *'™'' 5™" ™» 
thought you;,^Tne^ TsS^'^ot^TT "^^ ' 

said: "Well, wish vou TckT %k?^5" • ^®° ^««n 
o-in^ead oi you ; Ss'fni!. Mt'olTli" .'^ 

^ jaw. The faTTanlSnS't;'^ ^SLTinX 

.»^er^--^':^-.poro.'hi,«h« 

whii^aUSlt^'Sfw?l"?J- "^ ■*•■ ««tt afed, 
•"■a.' JL'^S?^ "— -- "^ '^^ 

^f^'Tiai'-H^r.jru:?!^ ;erarf°' " ^ 

«nd it had been delicfoS^io fcS tte^f ''«'^» "*"' 
the cheek as he hit it. O.mtortoSTl^J?!,'^'^ "^ 

^ ^l"^- "^ ^'^ "" ^tot ^-^^ « 
"Khe™,ts«.ym« • . •■ «aid Huacote, ,«i«!y. 






ill 



«36 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



* Oh, don't be a silly aas." 

Piatt raised his head : " Yes, do go away, Huncote." 
_, Green sat up ; he looked stupid, with one side of his 
collar burst away from the stud and a big purple marie 
<m his jaw. Huncote laughed, half hystericaUy : 

" Oh, aU right." he said, " I s'pose I'U have to apologise ; 
see you all to-morrow." 

He went out. 

There were no consequences. The next morning he 
publicly apologised to Green, explaining that he had 
been over-wrought. Green unders»^ood, he quite under- 
stood: 

" Let bygones be bygones," he said. " Now you'U be 
wantin* a house in town, Mr. 'Uncote. That bit of land 
... the fly-fishing school, that ain't sold yet, eh I " 
He nudged him. 

Just as Huncote was about to leave the Settlement to 
go to St. Olaves he ran into Mr. Ford. Fighting Bill 
almost embraced him : 

Good boy ! Good boy ! " he repeated endlessly, " wish 
I'd seen it, didn't think you had the guts. Let me feel 
your deltoid." He thrust his hand into Roger's waistcoat, 
and pawed his shoulder and breast : "Not bad I You come 
along to me one evening and I'll make a man of you. 
Nothing like it in married life, my boy I You ask my 
missus what I do to her on Saturday nights." 

They laughed together. Huncote Uked Fighting Bill; 
he was a man. A few hours later he was at St. Olaves. 

§2 

His impulse as he entered the house was to cry out : 
"I'm going to marry a washerwoman's daughter!" 
But reserve struggled with exultation and defiance. 
In the evening he wasted a chance of speaking to his 
mother alone, and solenmly joined in family auction at 
twopence-ha'penny a hundred. When the game ended 
after two rubbers, and Elspeth and Flora went to bed. 






THE TWILIGHT OF ST. OLAVES 337 

It As she was accustomed to the sort of man who c^S 

which he plamied scenes of fierce contest and ma^ficJS 
i^r^^Tr"^-' "Mother and sisters.»^dc^SS 
faiDwn It. he was inconceivably like Bert CaWweU At 

h pr StaSfli' "°'^"P' ^^^ happened fr^tntlt 
neprepared tactful openmgs. cunning little leadine-ui 

ftom the condition of the cathedral to questioiTL S 

TOnte to he down nor before lunch. vAen dishing-uo is 
on her mmd. nor just before tea, when she is Sv Ld 
^, nor just after breakfast, when she is ttiS^oTJ 
^t that monung she must order and buy. Hfcdi^d 
h«e taown Oat there are only two hou„ f^ th7nS^ 
apart from the over-puWic tea-time: a litUe whaTS 
a^sojthmg tea, and before she has beg,^ to b2S 
^t dnssing ; or the quiet «stfuhiessTafter-<W 
P»rt««lariy if she smokes. No. quit. sudJSl^^ 



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338 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



Mrs. Huncote was thinkiiig that she must tdl Betty to 
take the drawing-room curtains down, ask Trunch whether 
the mare was better, and make a list including the {dumber, 
Mudie's, and, above all, the stationer in view of a new 
time-table, he said : 

"Mother! What would you say if I told you I was 
going to get married ? " 

Mrs. Huncote stared. He was blushing; but for his 
clothes anybody could have seen he was blushing all 
over, but he felt much better : out at last I 

"Married? Roger?" said Mrs. Huncote, uneasily. 
" Oh ... of course, I know you'D get married some 
day, still, I didn't expect ... I ... I didn't 
know there was anybody. . . . Who te it ? " 

Huncote hesitated, and his blush grew hotter : 

" Well, mother, I'm afraid you haven't met her ; she 
lives in London." 

" Yes," said Mrs. Huncote, encouraging, " but why didn't 
you tell me before ? " 

" It was rather sudden," he murmured, desperately. 

"Oh I" Then her preoccupation with plumber and 
stationer intruded on her ; she grew a little shaq) : " But 
do tell me all about it, Roger ; one might think you thought 
I didn't care. What's her name ? Where did you meet 
her? " 

"Mother," said Huncote, with a great effort, "it's so 
difficult." 

Mrs. Huncote guessed: "Roger!" she whispered. 
" You don't mean to say . . ." Horrible visions of 
tow-headed barmaids rushed through her mind. Young 
men did that sort of thing at Oxford. A suspicion crossed 
her mind : " You aren't married already, Roger ? " 
He looked offended : 

" As if I could do such a thing without asking you." 
Mrs. Huncote grew more and more suspicious : 
"Are you quite sure you're asking me? It sounds 
rather as if you were telling me." 



TOE TVmjGHT OF ST. OlAVES ,35 

must let me speak plainly. qn?. * ^h. you 

vou s«. fih^TT. K '' • • • 5>ne s not one of us 
you see. bhes quite youne on^ t i ''"*"»» 

think her prettv .r.A V .* ^*^ ' ^°^ yo«" 

StS^fk^ir"----^^^^ 

"She^is.?""'^*' ""^ <iefinitely^frighten^'no?' "^ 

"^fA.f\°^^^^^- What does she do?- 
^ She helps her mother." 

"Oh! What does her mother do? - 
Huncote performed on himself what ammm*^ * 
surgical operation : ^^ amounted to a 

he ^ded.' huitiedly'*'* ' * * ««« ^c«. and aU that." 
Mrs Huncote remained blankly silent. 

once^Vhe^^ ^^'^"^ '^^ ^^^.T " "^ ''^^^ 

Sue." ^^ ^ *"* ^^ *^^ ^^«^ ' only you should see 
; Sue ? " asked Mrs. Huncote. 

„ °i «>'^. said Mrs. Huncote. ^ 
Uh, mother, don't say ♦ of course ' lik*. that i t*. 

Witt in^rUoT f""*"' '" * ""^ ; tten he fl„d«d 



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THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



" Mother I How can you ? Oh, if yon knew her you 
wouldn't say a thing like that." 

" Sorry. Only you put it in that way. So it amounts to 
this : you're going to marry the daughter of a washer- 
woman and you're asking me to say ' Yes.' The point is 
; . . would it be any use my saying « No ' ? " She 
asked this because on her previous question she had seen 
his eyebrows knit together in that famiUar, obstinate frown. 
Now he did not reply, and her heart grew small and 
shrunken ; for the son who does not disabuse his mother, 
when for a moment she doubts her power over him, has 
become a man. Bitterly she quoted to herself two lines 
of Yeats. Half-aloud she murmured : 

I Idss you, I Idss you, my pigeon, my own. 
How I shall miss you when you have grown. 

" What am I to say ? J can't say * Yes ' just Uke that. 
You know what I said the other day when you talked to 
me about Mr. Corry. Oh, Roger 1 Oh ! there was no 
Mr. Cony I It was you, wasn't it ? Oh, it wasn't fair." 

He looked at her miserably: no, of course it wasn't 
fair, it wasn't straight ... But what was he to do ? 
Rs shifted : 

^ Yes. you said something about class then, didn't you ?• 

" 1 didn't know it was you." 

"No, but you'd have said the same thing, wouldn't 
you ? " 

" Yes, more or less. You know I'm not mad oa class 
don't you ? But still ..." 

" But still, you think it won't work ? " 

" How can I teU ? " asked Mrs. Huncote. 

Mrs. Huncote'went out to shop, and during the whole 
of that day the situation developed. Elspeth was told : 
she was perfectly clear that this was preposterous. She 
^odced her mother very much by wishing R(^r had 
wwed more wild oats. As for Flora, she behaved still 
worse, for she declared that it was just like Pygmalion, and 



THE TWILIGHT OF ST. OLAVES 241 

s'^d^^tlilliv" ^- ^'^'^'''' ^«^"« whether Sue 
-niere w^^iLr ""^"^ .^^^-^i^^ly ganushed the remark. 

was so grave that Mrs. Huncote postponed her iournev to 
H^^ate. and left herself in the pStion almSTcon^ 
ceivable to her class of not going away in Au^t ^- 
battle l^ted three days, and w^. ff noTwon ft Ssa^ 
^m defeat not by the justice of Huncote' t^l7^ 
^e^vage opposition of Elspeth. which created a rS 

R^^^K ^" ^*^^^^«*'*°0' by some new reflections k^ 
Floras brain : Roger would doubtless have a nicTh^ 

while If he did . . . Well, she could go and stav^ 

Sr A^ > '^?; f'y ^°'" '°™^^y <l"ite new, called 
PtetCT. Also It would be no end of a rag. ^ ^^ 

S3 

" WeU, I never 1 " said Mrs. Groby. 
Same 'ere," said Mr. Groby. 

"Now yer sorry yer didn't let 'er try for that therm 
scholarship at 'Arrods." ^ "^*^ 

" 1 never 'ad no edication," said Mr. Groby. • It ne^^ 
done me no 'arm." ^ ^ 

said^M^ ?rnV^ °' *^\^^ ^* "^^* '*^e done yer/ 
« ^- ^^^by- tagging the question. 
Mr. Groby thought for a while. 

0^ST'"5' "^^^ l^*'" ^^P y** «"* o' the work'ouse.- 
Rn^ ^ "^^, ^°^' ^"^^^ P^<J with the faithful 
Romeo who was playing "Who were You with LaS 
Wight i upon a mouth-organ. 

16 



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THE STRANGERS' ^VEDDING 



§4 
It had been rather awkward, for Mrs. Groby beamed and 
almost bobbed as if she were still m Sussex child, and called 
him " Sir," and looked very hot and had been ashamed to 
wipe her face. And Mr. Groby, who had come home specially 
early on this Saturday afternoon instead of passing the rest 
of the day at his club, found it very difficult to talk to 
Huncote. They had stared at each other mostly, the fastidi- 
ous yovmg man trying han to be easy with one who would 
soon expect him to call him father ; Mrs. Groby always called 
him father, but this did not seem to make things easier, 
indeed more difficult. As for Mr. Groby, a big, red-faa,d 
person of forty-five, rather bald except where his grey hair 
was dyed black, after ofiering Huncote a Woodbine he 
found himself with his mouth open. Then, to show that 
they were quite at ease, he became effusively familiar, 
told him he was one of the right sort, and asked him which 
way he voted. An indication of Huncote's views. Young 
Liberal Socialism brand, eased things a little, as it enabled 
Mr. Groby to wax sanguinary about that ginger al^ lot. 
Politics. Hunco*'^ thought, simplified matters, for how- 
ever different men might be they would, he supposed, 
always discover invigorating hatreds. Then he looked at 
the dirty saucepans on the table and for a second wondered 
whether he could go on with this. But Sue was there, 
and she was so happy, so embanassed, so afraid, so anxious 
all should go well, and so proud of him. 

She left him for a moment to put on her hat and he 
stayed alone with Mr. and Mrs. Groby and Muriel. Muriel 
was being condescending and worldly : Did he not think 
the hobble skirt unbecoming? (While keeping open an 
anxious ear for the strains outside of "Who were You 
with Last Night ? ") Huncote felt like a cat on a ward- 
robe in a room with several dogs, wondering what will 
happen when it comes down. But as Sue came in her eyes 
sought his and not those of anybody else. They were soft. 



THE TWILIGHT OF ST. OLAVES ,43 

S^'STo^v^SJ ?'^ '^l? "t' ^^^^ ^'^ ^hich he felt 
J^ thwe only for him. He knew that his snule answered 
her. paid tnbute to her loveliness, her inn^ce^Hhe 

*S- cu *^°"«^' ^«'" beautiful. Her clothes w^e 
JippaUing. She was wearing her best summerXs? S 

snouiaers, and fnlls round her wrists, irrelevant kn^Kc a«!i 
stnps of lace about her hips, bars of^onTn h^ ^,^,^ 
every pure hne of body and limb she spoiled S bX' 
And her gloves, dark brown kid. must havriSn A^^ 

S?att'l''rT'°°^- Only the P:;>^5d:nce^?,^^ 
that is also the Providence of Fools saved Hnn^^J * ' 

l^T^^"^'- '^ ^^ Petti^S we too^Tn^LS^^ 

o?t ,ff t"""} "i ?°"*' *^** ^'"^ ^^'^ dreadful bLcS 
of sti^. knots of lace aU over the ill-fittine stavs t W 3 

To^^^'t'^' ^*^ '^^ under 'tlieT-? t^.^" 

IS ,^^ ^^ ^y "^"^^ «' their welcome. He was 
^e ^actun of a tragedy: to be blind when lo^gl^ 
the. first tmie. a preparation to having sight and lovi^ no 

rnn^% "^^ ^ * ^"^^^ ^^'^« ^ ^is. Huncote's drawimr- 
room. Sue so anxious that she found herself staring k^ 

hS STT' f ^^*^' "* ^^^ '• ^heneve^^e^au^ 
hereelf at it she turned away quickly, nervously crossC 

q"et"^t'Z"sf " ^TV-l^g -ith'Lazem^^f SX' 
quiet at the S^vTes clock, the assegais upon the waU ^ 
many books lying about which she had Svert^l;fSe 
outeide a bookseUer's window. It was not ISnrSJ 

i^S:; ^^y^^^^^^'^tth^h^tatfii.t.andhTfrx^ 
^ was. Mrs. Huncote drew from Sue that it was^ 
bemg m the country after St. Panwich. Ihis led to tol 
ments of St Olaves. and Mrs. Huncote became^o^gilpWc 
Elspetiisaidnotaword. She maintained a protS^d 

^V"^ "^' .^^'^^ ^*^ '^y^ ^«^ hard noU^fuTh 
let herself go and laughed at evei^thini. She was ^'• 



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THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



•Oh, you'U like it here," she said, "when you see a 
little of the country. There's the Char, you must have 
seen it from the train." 

" Yes, Sue," said Huncote, " that's the river ; I showed it 
you, you know." He tried to be easy : " I'U have to teach 
you to fish." 

Mrs. Huncpte raised her eyebrows, but Flora gallantly 
helped: 

" Oh, mother, I know what you're going to say ; you're 
going to say fishing's cruel." 

" Not with nfcts," said Mrs. Huncote. 

Mrs. Huncote was chipped as to her humanitarianian 
tempered by a liking for trout. During the chipping Sue 
remained uneasy, playing with her fingers. It was all very 
wonderful, she thought, this talk about trout, though she 
did not understand what Roger was saying about a cast, 
and what could have happened to the back of Flora's 
neck when Roger was tryitig for an eddy, or a neddy, or 
something. Then she felt she must say something : " Nice 
uttle fish. There's a fishmonger in the High Street has a 
whole lot of them in a tank, all alive. They fry, don't they ? " 

" I'm not quite sure," said Mrs. Huncote, " but I should 
say they would fry." 

There was a pause, and Elspeth said, with a snarl : 

" We'd better ask cook." 

Huncote hated Elspeth just then ; Flora, who, with all 
her mischievousness, had some tact, suggested they should 
go into the garden. They did not go at once, for the jour- 
ney still had to be discussed, and Flora had to argue with 
her brother about through trains. But at last they reached 
the garden, all except Elspeth, who had something to do in 
the town. That made things easier ; persuaded by Hvm- 
cote. Sue took off her hat. He felt that it would be better 
if she took off that hat, for it was trimmed with sage-green 
ribbons which clashed with the lettuce green relief of her 
frock. He was right, for as soon as he had done so Mrs. 
Huncote laid upon her a long, observant gaze. 



THE TWILIGHT OF ST. OLAVES 345 

Yes, she was pretty ; she was more than pretty. They 
made a charming picture. Mrs. Huncote thought, those 
two Flora with her deUcate skin of white and rose, her 
laughmg grey eyes, and Sue. sombre and brooding under 
her heavy black locks. It was extraordinary. Could it be 
made just possible? Huncote was talking to her. but 
she did not Usten ; she was thinking of a parlourmaid she 
once had. who. after a few years, developed a strange 
artistic taste in the arrangement of flowers, who kept her 
hands so mcely too. no one knew how. She sighed. 

" Why do you sigh, mother ? " asked Huncote. 

She looked at him, smiling a Uttle ; the others were out 
of earshot : 

"How can you ask ? This .. . it's not exactly 
what I wanted, is it ? " »*«*.uv 

" Don't you like her ? " he asked, urgently. 

"I can hardly . . . It's too early to say . . . 
She's very pretty." J' • • 

" Yes," said Huncote. 

And together for a moment they looked at Flora and 
Sue. Flora was talking and laughing, and Sue stood 
hstenmg with a Uttle smUe while she played with the hectic 
bells of a great fuchsia bush. She did not know what she 
was doing, and with her hand outstretched, cnishing a 
httle between her brown fingers the passionate bloom, she 
looked smaU and desolate, as if appealing. A heavy 
shadow feU from a tree upon her face, made her all dark 
and secret, loaded with mystery the pathos of her eyes. 

As if by agreement Mrs. Huncote took her apart They 
went together along the path to the wall upon which 
racqmsitely spread, were the young peaches beginning to' 
blush. At first Mrs. Huncote talked alone : did Sue Hke 
her work ? what sort of Ufe had she ? had she any brothers 
and sisters ? To which Sue answered " Yes " and " No " 
It Mras not so bad now, she thought :. in the drawing-room 
^e had wanted to say " Yes. mum," but it was not so here. 
5he looked more confidently at this nice old lady • pretty 



f I' 



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THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



Mrs. Huncote seemed so old to a young giri accustomed 
to seeing women old at thirty. It helped her that Mra. 
Huncote should be old, and, Uttle by little, she confided in 
her: 

^ Have you known my son long ? " asked Mrs. Huncote. 
No. not exactly long," said Sue, blushing. " On and 
off for eight or nine months, but it was only lately that 
he . . ." She grew dumb. 

"Yes," said Mrs. Huncote, encouragingly, "that you 
grew fond of each other." 

Sue made a great effort, and dug her toe into the 
gravel, but could only get out a stifled " Yes." 

Then Mrs. Huncote said : 

" He seems very fond of you." 

After a while Sue, who seemed to have been thinking 
said: *' 

" Who'd have thought it ? " 

And, strangely enough, Mrs. Huncote was not offended, 
for Sue seemed so sincere, so overcome. That helped 
her. and Mrs. Huncote said : 

" It's no use saying things like that . . . Sue ; it 
just happens, doesn't it ? " 

For a moment Sue did not reply. It was not only that 
Mrs. Huncote had called her by her name, but the sudden 
softening of the tone moved her. She fdt warmed 
accepted, and. without any artfuhiess, she increased her 
advantage. With clasped hands she turned to the mother 
and muirnured thickly : 

" Oh, Mrs. Huncote, it's like a dream. I never thought 
of anybody like him. He's Uke . . . weU, I dSi't 
know, only it always makes me fed not good enough 
I used to think a lot of mysdf. you know, but that's all 
over." Mrs. Huncote smiled. "You needn't smile it's 
quite true. He's . . . he looks Uke one of those men 
in armour in the pictures. And when he *aiif«f it makes 
me think of , , ." 
•Of what?" 



THE TWIUGHT OF ST. OLAVES 



347 



, " Oh. silly things. Birds." 
" Foolish child I " said Mrs. Huncote. 
But she was moved, and it ahnost hurt her. She had 
a fleeting memory of the dead Colonel, of the first time 
they danced at the hunt baU. thirty years before. He 
had said something so idiotic and delightful, made her 
go out with him into the grounds of the Assembly Room 
at Dorchester. She remembered : " Come into the garden 
and be the nightingale." She pulled herself up: now! 
no sentiment ! But she looked at Sue, who was staring 
at the peaches with her mouth fallen open, a little wistful, 
as if she asked for kindness as well as for love. 

" Foolish child I " she said again. " I envy you," and 
slipped her hand along the girl's arm. 

Life's calculated artistry piled bathos on pathos. There 
was tea and difficulty with the thin bread-and-butter, 
and there was Flora, anxious to put Sue at her ease by 
professing a delight in pink roses for hats. A Uttle strain 
again, for Huncote did not know what his mother had 
said, and he was thinking of the Grobys. 

He was still thinking of the Grobys when they got into 
the train, he and hb silent girl. Six o'clock: perhaps 
Mr. Groby was tight. Again he wondered whether he 
could go on: but they had a carriage to themselves, 
and as soon as the train started Sue flung herself into his 
anns : " We're alone," she whispered. 

Then he understood. As he held her dose-folded he 
knew that he was alone in a hostile world with the only 
creature who really loved him, that is. who loved him 
without understanding him. It was wonderful to be 
t'ken Uke that ; she sheltered him from the world : for 
a moment she made the world, she was all his. He had 
a vision of her as one who had long been in the making 
for him ; she was an angd. still and dark. looking at him 
from under its brows and smiling. As he fdt her in his 
arms, quiescent, every fibre of her body told him: "I 
am yours, and you are mine, and I love you. I was parted 



I 



;h 



248 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

from you by the unknown past, and yet I was always 
with you. Come to me and you shaU have aU of me that 
you want body, understanding. simpUcity; you shall be 
my counsel and my chUd, my protector and my charge; 
you shdl be my leader and my playmate, and suffer ^th 
me. and laugh with me. and weep with me, for you are 
all rmne, my heart." ' 

They parted in Paradise Row. He had kissed her so 
much and yet he wanted again to do so : the custom 
of the place allowed it, so securely she raised her Ups to 
• u. V! } degraded and delighted as. for the first time 
m nis life, he kissed a woman in the street 
She smiled darkly : " Ta-ta, be good." she said. 

S5 

He ^ excited, and he feared the hurrying on of glad- 
ness and of doom. He wanted her : yes^knew Zi; 
he wanted her not only as a woman because she wa^ 
beautiful, but he wanted her pr^ce. the consa^L^ 
of her. He hked to see her move, to hear her voice 
^fuiS"". ''?"' *^* "^ ^ *=^«^ ^b«» ^^e laughed. He 
Jf5.1r ♦w *.8^* <1«|' and asked her quStions just 
to hear that voice. Besides, they had much to talk of 
ihere was qmte a long argument as to the date of the 
marriage, which was fixed for the first week in October. 
When he asked her to " name the day," she said • 

^WeU." he said, "you're going to marry me, aren't 

"Yes. but . . .- 
h^l^^^' ^* '^«°*ef«d the long engagements in 

" All right," he said, " we can put it oflf a little • what 
•bout thfa day five years ? " "auTOC. wAat 

"Five years is rather long," said Sue. quite serious. 



THE TWILIGHT OF ST. OLAVES 349 

He laughed: "But don't you understand, Sue, that 
I m not going to wait for you for five years 1 " 

"^ Don't think it worth it, is that it ? " asked Sue. 

"Don't be siUy. I'm not going to wait for you five 
years or five months." 

" WeU, it ought to be a year, don't you think ? Quite 
a year? " * 

He grew impatient : " But, Sue, you don't understand ; 
people only wait because they can't afford to get married. 
They'd like to get married at once. At least, I expect so." 

Sue did not understand ; all she knew was that every 
one of her married friends had waited anything between 
one year and five years, except one who waited ten and 
there you are. But Roger, too, did not und-istand; 
he did not know that girls s"ch as Sue fear marriage 
because marriage does not em jpate as it does in the 
bourgeoisie; because marriage means that the sdf-sup- 
porting girl abandons the freedom of her work and possibly 
a good wage for uncertain dependence upon a man, a 
man who may become like other men, rather drunken 
and sometimes brutal. 

The deadlock was ended by violence : Roger threatened 
to buy a special licence and to marry her that week. 
Terrified and delighted, she had to give in when she heard 
that a special licence cost thirty pounds : that would be 
too dreadful, so they would be married early in October. 

§6 
She^said : " Won't you give me a little photo of your- 

" Of course, I will." 

" Quite a little one ? Big as a shilling ? " 
"^ But why only as big as a shilling ? " 
"To put in a locket to wear round my neck." She 
iMUshed. 

He laughed. No, she should have a big one. He 
didn't want her to wear his photo like that He did not 



Is 

if 
I 






ill 



250 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

want her to look like . . . weU, like what she was. 
But it was early, and he was charmed. 

There was a house to find, there were clothes to buy, 
there was clergyman and choir to think of. Decisions 
must be taken as to where the reception should be held, 
and the honeymoon must be thought of. But Huncote 
thought of other things, too, of trifles in her behaviour 
and clothing which annoyed him a very little, even m 
those moments when he loved her. He began to think 
of it the day he broke her necklace. 

It was evening as he saw her home. They were in 
sportive mood, and she said he had kissed her enough. 
He struggled with her, she breathless and hiding her face 
with her hands. As he tore her hands away, masterful 
and tender, he caught a finger in the necklace; the 
thread broke, and the sham pearls fell all over the pave- 
ment, where in their excitement they did not notice them 
until they had trampled half of them into powder. 

'Oh, my pearls 1" Sue cried. Then she looked as if 
about to weep. 

"Never mind, sweetheart, 111 give you another neck- 
lace to^norrow." 

"Will you reaUy?- She smiled, forgetting the pest 
and thmking only of to-morrow, for she loved him. 

But when it came to buying the necklace he hesitated. 
He had the prejudice of his education against sham 
jewellery of any kind ... and so many girls at the 
Settlement wore sham pearls. No, he could not buy those. 
He thought of something more overwhelming, real pearls. 
Only he was not sure that Sue wo»ld like them as weD 
as the sham, for they would be small. Accidentally he 
discovered the shop in Oxford Street where they sell 
queer, cbe^> jewellery from Italy or the East. He was 
proud when he brought Sue her necklace ; it was curious, 
made of gilt wood on an Italian model, of carved 



THE TWILIGHT OF ST. OLAVES 251 

wooden spheres, separated by blue stones decorated with 
gold designs. He clasped it round her neck, and thought 
she looked baroaric. But she fingered the pendant and 
seemed disconsolate. 

- Don't you like it ? " he asked. 
^ " Well." she said, " it's quaint." She pouted a Uttle : 
• Thought you said you'd get me some pearls." 

"Oh!" he cried. "Don't you see it's beautiful? that 
it isn't like everybody's? 1 assure you it's a beautiful 
thing." 

" It is quaint," she said, ungraciously. 

He knew there was something a little wrong; orna- 
ments, clothes, he didn't quite know what; he knew 
too little of women to say. He wished some woman, 
somebody like Flora, a woman who knew, would help 
her. But he shrank from contact between his sister and 
his bride. Suddenly he thought of Theresa. 

It was a queer interview. Theresa, of course, knew, 
and she let him go on to the end, but he found it difficult! 

-You see what 1 mean," he said, at length. "You 
know how sweet she is, 1 know you like her. Only, 
having been brought up like that, it's so difficult." 

"Yes," she said, "I understand. Of course. 111 help 
you." And ahnost added : " You child ! " "Tell her to 
come and see me, or rather 111 take her out myself— it'll 
be all right." She smiled : " She shall be a regular fashion 
plate I Will that satisfy you ? She shaU have coats and 
skirts like everybody, and she shall not wear any but 
hand-sewn blouses ; she'll be so like everybody that you 
won't be able to teU her I WiU that satisfy you ? She 
shan't only be good enough for you, but she shall look it I " 

TTiere nad been in the words " good enough for you '* 
an intonation rather peculiar. For a moment Roger felt 
awkward, but he was in no mood for introspectiim ; so 
he told himself he was only thinking what a good friend 
Theresa was. As he went he thanked her again. He 
felt impulsive : 






2sa 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



" You're the best of friends." Then, before she could 
elude him, he kissed her softly on the cheek. 

Theresa was alom. Evening was coming. She went to 
the window and looked out over the low houses opposite, 
over the canal, so dull, hke lead, save where the setting' 
sun touched it. It was not so warm now, and soon it 
would be dusk. She thought of the night, the night that 
would be cold after the heat of the day. She did not 
know just then exactly what she felt. She could not tell 
herself that she was losing the man she wanted; all 
she knew, as the sun dipped below the house, was that 
the fading of its glory heralded an enclosing night. A 
greyness fell over the sky and over something within her 
that felt sick with weakness. 



§8 

" I say ! " said Sue. "• I been showing that necklace of 
yours to a girl. She was gone on it." 

"Oh?" 

" And I've sort of taken to it. too." She fingered the 
pendant: "It's lovely, ain't it? They can't do that 
sort of work in England." 

His emotion was both suave and deep. So she had 
learnt! She could understand the beautiful, could see 
quickly 1 One only had to show it to her. and she forgot 
all vulgar things. He held her close. Oh ! how wonderful 
she could be I The vision of a Sue renewed and made 
peerless which he had seen after the night by the river 
formed again. It intoxicated him. It did not occur to 
him that she had followed where another girl led. 

§9 

They were grouped in the drawing-room, about thirty 

people. A quiet Uttle party, for Mrs. Huncote had done 

what she could. There had been wrangles because Flora 

wanted silver-edged invitations ; more wrangles because 



THE TWILIGHT OF ST. OLAVES 253 

Huncote objected to wedding-presents. In fact, for a 
while, he conducted a single-handed battle against his 
own family and the Grobys too, because he wanted quietly 
to go round to the registrar's with Sue and two witnessM 
at half-a-crown a head. Mrs. Huncote might have given 
way thankfuJly. only Mrs. Groby. remembering her aunt 
who had left all that money to the blacks in Africa, was 
determmed to get out of the Church value for the lost 
mhentance. And Sue did not help much. When Huncote 
caine to her and offered to elope to the registrar's she looked 
at him half frightened. 
"Oh ! " she said, " I shouldn't feel properly married I" 
He pressed her. She grew mutinous, and for a moment 
qmte ugly, with a dark, obstinate face : 
"All my friends been to the church," she said, curtly 
He grew angry, she wept. Then they kissed, and *he 
felt a brute. Later he changed his mind, and there were 
more quarrels; there was even a quan«l at Paradise 
Row m presence of the amalgamated Grobys. Muriel 
came out strong : 

" A church," she declared, ' is so much more ladylike " 
Perce went round to Huncote on the sly and offered 
to Iddnap Sue for him for a tanner. But Huncote thought 
of Mrs. Ramsey and the white slave traffic, and refused 

All might have been well and the wedding have taken 
place at All Souls'. St. Panwich, but Huncote, exasperated 
by this battermg on all sid-s, continuaUy entangled in 
theological arguments with Mrs. Groby who wanted to 
serve the Church out, with Mrs. Huncote who did not 
believe m it. but knew that everybody who was anybody 
got married in church (unless they wer« inteUectual and 
went m for free love), was brought to such a pitch of 
exasperation by discovering a letter from the COS to 
Ekpeth. who as a sort of last hope had been inquiring 
whether there was anything against the Grobys, that he 
suddenly declared he would have a raging and tearing 
wedding, and at St. Olaves. The silver-edged invitaUon 












mu 



254 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



cards were printed ; they would have been sent if Elspeth 
had not quietly got hold of the bundle, destroyed most of 
them, and told him only too late. Huncote wrote to the 
Dean, asking him to oflBciate in person, but was fortunately 
foiled by a previous engagement of the prelate. 

He was furious and resolute and, outwitting his family, 
on the morning of the wedding he disembarked a blue 
Hungarian band and six dozen of champagne. He was 
very unhappy in those days and yet delighted. He was 
ahnost forgetting Sue and the gaining of his desire, for he 
saw so little of her now, with Theresa rushing her round the 
town to dressmakers, and milliners, and bootmakeis in a 
triumphant and reforming progress which left behind it 
the shattered remains of machine-made blouses and three- 
and-elevenpemiy stays. Sue became a phantom. . . . 
Sue was manicured. . . . 

So Huncote flung himself upon that wedding with the 
determination that might have inspired him had he sworn 
to drown a greedy cat in cream. He happened to read 
" The Blue Lagoon " in those days, and thought they did 
these things better in Polynesia. But still among this 
welter of contending wills, of reluctances, of clamorous 
prejudices, of social assumptions, of abominable pryings 
into the most exquisite things, the solemn institution of 
marriage rumbled on, caring very httle in its eternal 
course what lay under its juggernaut wheels : Sue might 
weep, but banns were called. 

There was quite a little crowd that soft October day, 
with the hollyhocks blowsy and dusty, and the chrysanthe- 
mums beginning to mourn the dead summer. The two 
parties had clotted rather ; there was a proud young group 
made up of Flora, Peter, in a highly brushed condition, 
Cuthbert and Sawbones Junior to represent her glamorous 
past. There was a minor canon and his wife who looked 
at everybody as if they saw them through lorgnettes; 
the doctor lurked behind a big Mack moustache, out of 
which he now and then burst like a sharpshooter, inade- 



THE TWILIGHT OF ST. OLAVES 255 

^tdy restrained by a precise Uttle wife who might have 

been made of chiUed steel painted pink, so de3^h« 
Imw. There were locals, too. some of the locals whose 
mvitations Elspeth had not been able to stop. And sS 
relativ^: Mis. Huncote's mother, old Mrs.^FamS. ^ 
exquisite white curls and a trembling bomiet on the S 

«L K f^u ?^ ^''- ^""*" ^ *° b^ ^^^ helpful^, 
and-by. for her bonnet and its angle served as a link betwc^a 

ZJ^ : ?^^' '??°' unfortunately, had added to her 
own bonnet velvet nbbon of that pecuUar pale crimson 
wtach recaps raspberry fool. There were m^e fS 

^'JiTu^'^^l'^f' M"- H"°~*e's brother. wiA 
his ^fe . he mchned to be jovial, and she to consider the 
crowd with the tolerance that fills a naval wife TnoS! 
service circles On the Hmicote side was only Miss Hun- 
cote, the maiden aunt, accompanied by her transformation. 
n^7fiS\ * conversation with Mr. Groby. which 
mj^tified her very much because he continually aUuded 
to the yard. She first thought he was an ostler, knd whra 
^g mformation. was told by the doctor that he meant 
the tone yard, which was not enhghtening. And there 
J^ Perce, who wondered when the eating would suS 

S!^*' ^! ^^ ^"^^ *^** q'^^tion he was heaX 
snubbed, and told that eating was not gentlemanly. But 
Perce, whose breakfast had been forgotten in the moraine 
hurry, w^ possessed, and the results threatened to be 
senous. Grabbing was in Perce's mind. There was 
Grandpa ChaUow. brought from Sussex by the Grobvs 

^,.7f^ ^ f ^'^^'S u^ '^' "^^y ^^ghty- Mis. H^: 

cote fell m love with him when he said : 

" I'm unaccountable glad to meet you. Mis. Huncote • 
he^ a mce boy. He's the nicest boy I seen for a long time »' 

I'm glad you like him." she said. ^ 

"• " I do. surelye." 

1 ^^^^ i^ ^^ ^^*°' restrained, the band was vio- 
l«itly banding. Huncote. for a moment undisturbed »t 
at the wmdow staring out. He had escaped the Faindl 



i|J 



1 



:1 



f 

PL, 

\m\\ 



«S6 



THE STRANGfeRS* WEDDING 



country coosms in thdr country clothes, and with a sort 
of savage delight noted that they wore bows upon their 
shoulders : his wife knew better than that by now, so he 
scored off the Wiltshire end of the family. There was a 
buzz of talk behind him and some laughter. He felt 
depressed. He was glad behind his depression, for it was 
nearly over, and he had had a glimpse of Sue just long 
enough for her to smile. But it had all been so compli- 
cated and hard, and he felt tired. In front of him, between 
two faded hollyhock stems, a great autumn spider sat in 
its web ; it was beautiful and sinister, with a yellow cross 
upon its back, motionless, as if from the moist dead leaves 
there came already a breath of mxurderous winter. 

He ahghted from the carriage ; helped out Mrs. Groby 
and his mother. Mrs. Groby fell. It seemed so long, the 
wait near the altar, with Sue missing. He wondered why 
the bridegroom mattered so httle in a wedding and why 
everybody was aiudoxis about the bride. The crowd 
seemed very small in the church, and the bride's side would 
have been empty had not some of the Himcotes filled it up. 
Mrs. Groby woiUd have asked a few friends if the wedding 
had happened in St. Panwich, but she had not the courage 
to bring them to St. Olaves. She did not mind. She had 
been torn between gentiUty and auld lang syne. Gentihty 
won. There was a httle hush, some craning forward of 
heads, a noise as everybody turned from the altar to watch 
the coming of the bride with her father, who was to give 
her away. Huncote grew conscious of something in white, 
large and floriferous, which followed Sue — Ada Nuttall, of 
course — and of Churton at his side begging him to be 
steady. . . . 

Who was this stranger girl he was to wed? She 
seemed so different in the gown of white chiffon. It made 
her look so dark ; her eyes were aowncast and she seemed 
stem, her mouth set and its lovely ciurves gone ; even her 
hair looked strange; he wondered where the beautifol 
etuis had gone. He did not know that Thoesa's battle 



THE TWILIGHT OF ST. OLAVES 25; 

^ not been entirely won and that, in spite of oixJew. Su€ 
had supplemented the natural curl by puttine her ha^ 

tTr^rK**t"^^''^'°^^ thismadeacu,iouscombS^ 
tion with the wave the hairdresser had given it that 
morning. ... on. umk 

And now they were side by side, kneehng. For a moment 
Hunoote felt rdigious. Then he noticed the vicar's S 
His elbow touched Sue's, and he pressed it as if to reassure 
her. reaUy to reassure himself, for he did not know what 
awful thoughts had stolen the curves from her mouth that 

^rtTJ"\f °"S ^ *^ ^^*«* '°^ ^^^ moment wh^ 
Bert CaldweU would, as in the story "True Till Death " 

step out from behind a pillar and say :" I forbid the banns'l 
ThM woman who stands here is my affianced wife I - 
M °"*»°**""g happened. As she said " I wUl » she thought 
of Bert without a qualm, for she loved this man. this stranee 
shmmg creature by her side. Only she wondered wheto 
Bert wou^d go to Australia. Then agam she said - 1 
cTT" ^^^^.H^ncote placed the ring upon her finger 
she squeezed his hand hard, as if begging him to hold it 
so that none might hurt her. ... 

It was very different after, as they stood side by side 
m ^ drawmg-room being congratulated. For Sue saw 
everything with relief rather than triumph, and so she was 
beautiful. The chiffon fell softly from her shoulde^ 
ample over the arms to where the long white gloves left 
bore the smooth sturdiness of her arm. The white silk 

K?VuT!r"'n*^^ "^^**' ^^ '*^g^*' soft folds of flunsy 
white that fell from her hips to her white-shod feet, hid 
littte of the graaousness of her lines, half-virginal, half- 
mature. Theresa must have done something to her hair 
after the church. Mrs. Huncote thought, for it looked 
looser, and so thick and dark against the paUor of the 
oran^Mossom. The groups formed again. The locals 
Mhdified round the minor canon and his wife, while Blrs 
FameU. conscious of the power of the fifteen-inch naval 
guns and of the traditions of Drake, formed a rival crowd 

17 



ill 
1 



;-;!i'" 



ill 

m 



a58 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



mainly of rdkdons yrbo were tending to dot. The oonntry 
cousins, together with BIrs. Famell. Miss Hunoote and 
Elspeth. were banning with ostentatious aloohiess to 
exchange the family confidences and evil reports which are 
suitable when relations come together: the naval ^rih 
sat on the quarter-deck of the good ship " Famell-Hun* 
cote." I^rce ate at last as quickly as his high collar would 
let him, and Muriel fascinatedly walked round and round 
the doctor's wife, trying to find out how she got into her 
apparently seamless garment. Huncote, determined to 
do his duty, monopolised Mr. Groby. Mr. Groby and his 
femily had begun numbly, staring, saying ' Yes, sir " and 
"Yes, mum," though they tried to keep it down. The 
fashion, the muni^ence paralysed them. Now Hunoote 
regretted havmg ordered so much champagDe, for Mr. 
Groby was becoming k>uder and louder on the subject of 
the Old Mogul. * Never been to the Old Mogul ? Why I 
Where was you bom? The times I used to 'ave there 
with oie Joe Bates ! They don't know wot a music-'all 
is nowadays.' He went on: "They used to call it 
the Bloodpot, they did, and no wonder. Why, I 
remember. . . ," 

Huncote tried to jvevent him from remembering too 
loud. But the other Grobys were creating a small scene. 
The two children and their mother stood fascinated before 
a tableload of weddmg presents. Mrs. Groby patted an 
awful black marble dock, presented by the country 
cousins. "My I" she said, "that's wot I caU a dock." 
She stopped Mrs. Famell. " It's the dead spit of the one 
as my Aunt Elizabeth used to 'ave. Wot d'yer think that 
corst?" 

" I'm sure I don't know," said Mrs. Famell, trying to escape. 
• Well, it's got yer name on it," said BIre. Groby. 
" I beg your pardon. That's my sister-in-law's name." 
" Why I Didn't yer talk it over ? " asked Mrs. Groby, 
laughing. " Now, where's yer present ? Don't be shy." 
Mrs. Huncote came to tlw rescue in time to i»event 



THE TWnJGHT OF ST. OLAVES 259 

Pwoe decorating the silver salver with an * H " scratched 
with the carvers. 

- Won't you come into the garden ? • she asked lira 
Groby. - It's lovely.- ^ 

" Everything in the garden's lovely," cried Pferce. 

The country cousins came closer. Elspeth hovered 
Mrs. Groby was heard to vow that if anybody'd riven her 
that biscuit box she'd pop it. yapvenner 

"^ Hush I " said Mrs. Huncote, ' that's from Lady Belhus." 
Oo cares ? * asked Mrs. Groby, democratic and slightiy 

" Come with me. Mrs. Groby," said Elspeth. But Bfrs 
^y^*^ed on her: "Go's arskin'yer for yer opinion,* 

There was a thrill of horror, for suddenly the Grobys 
grew - family like," and the guests were greeted as Flora 
Lucy, anything. Mrs. FameU and the doctor intervened' 
for Munel had burst into tears as gentility expired, while 
Perce had to be operated on for swallowed fishbone. At 
last Mrs. Groby accepted tea. It was very hot. so she 
poured it into her saucer, from which she lapped in the 
intervals of huge bitings out of a lump of cake. 

"That ain't good tea . . . (lap). I always say, 
take yer tea strong and labour in the vineyard of the 
Lord. . . . (lap, squish) ..." 

P»ce joined his father, who was consuming foie gras 
sandwiches, three at a time. 

" That stuff ain't arf bad." he told the Cuthbert-Saw- 
bones Junior group. "'Ave a bit. sonny," offering the 
plate to the highly brushed Peter. " Don't choke yereelf, 
Pferce. Yer enjoymg yer little self, ain't yer ? " 
" Not arf." 

- 1 believe yer." He pointed a thumb at the wedding 
cake. " Just as good as mother makes it, eh I " 

Mrs. Huncote watched Mrs. Famell's face and began 
uncontrollably to laugh. She felt like weeping, too. But 
she was the leader, so she must follow her guests' desires. 



!■ t 









I 

1 






\m 



Ito THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

She broke up the Groby dot, and soon Hnncote, who had 
missed the scene, heard his mother talking to Mrs Groby. 
The conversation had begun with an interesting cancer 
case, and was inx)ceeding onwards to the condition of a 
neighbour whose nervous "dstem" was comj^etely 
wrecked. Told in a whisper to get Mr Groby away, he 
managed to land him on the doctor, with a hint that he 
needed looking after; the doctor dosed him with more 
champagne. But he could not find Sue; she had gone 
away, it seemed, to put on her going-away dress, and so 
for a moment he talked to Grandpa Challow. 

" I never been in Loadoa for a long time,* said the old 
man. " No, not since the Jubilee. It's a long time since 
'eighty-seven 1 I was so tall then, surelye." 

- Did you see anything ? " asked Huncote. 

The old man was not listening, he was lost in memories : 
" There was the Queen, looking valiant in her carriage, and 
the Royal Sussex guarding her all the way. I was just 
about glad to see her, such a praaper lady. But the bees 
all died that year," he sighed, and accepted a glass of 
champagne. 

§10 

As they drove oS Huncote glimpsed the massed classes 
in the portico. Another stranger was by his side, now in 
a pale grey travelling gown, a charming stranger wlw 
smiled and somehow was his. He took her hand. They 
were both of them relieved, very shy, rather frightened. 
He looked into the dark eyes that appealed only to him ; 
he stooped to kiss the smiling lips, and said : 

- You are beautiful I " 
Sue laughed nervously : 

** You story I " she replied. 

He laughed ; she charmed him, she alone was real. He 
drew down the glove to kiss the strong arm ; she put her 
other hand upon his neck, and shyly stroked hb hair. In 
their own way they were both of them entrusting their lives 
to an unknown, but perhaps baievolait Providence. , * , 



PART THE THIRD 

LEAVES OF WILLOW 



ns 









fi« 



A garden inclosed is my sister, my spvose : 
a spring shut up, a fountaine sealed. 

Tk* Song of SclomoH. 



CHAPTER THE FIRST 



THE PYRENEES AMD PEMBROKE SQUARE 

Sx 
Roger Huncote shifted upon his pillow, stretched himself, 
still half-asleep. He tried to untie his eyelids and then, 
feeling he was still very tired, nestled closer against Sue, 
as if in five days he had acquired the habits of marriage. 
But through the dimness which with every moment grew 
less, he was conscious of the life surrounding him and of 
the last five days, so hurried, so packed with emotion and 
sensation, hectic and exhausting, hectic and exquisite. 
As consciousness came to him he Uked to remember in 
half-wakefuhiess ; it was Uke a play for him alone per- 
formed. From St. Olaves they had gone to Dover, and 
there stayed the night ; the next day on to Paris, where 
again they had broken the journey. Paris had been 
hateful. The dty was wearing her ugly face of wet days, 
when water decrepitates upon the zinc roofs and floods 
the stone gutters, when the w(»nen in their smart half- 
inouming scurry Uke cats, and everything is brilliant 
with water, not dull and muddy as in London, but s(nnehow 
so much wetter. Paris had been dreadful; she looked 
like a scarecrow in a dressing-jacket of rr«pe de chine. 
He remembered how wonderful Sue thought it, how 
bravely she had set out from the hotel right into the 
rain until he stopped her and made hoc get into a taxi. 
She had not thought of a cab ; it shocked him a little, that, 
and charmed him. And there had been an interesting 
moment, when he took her to the Bon March^ to bay a hat. 



t 



964 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



How was he to know where to buy women's hats ? He 
Temembered her shrinking from the sales-ladies. 

Lazily still, he thought of their journey to Biarritz, so 
long, and yet so delightful because every hour grew warmer 
and lighter, until suddenly they saw the sun drown as a 
torch in the blue sea beyond the basin of Arcachon. 

He looked at her. She was fragile and childish iike this, 
with her hair in two thick black plaits. One lay across 
her cheek and neck, and he had to tell himself that if she 
opened her eyes they would be astonished and eager, so 
as not to think of her in her tragic darkness as a Salammbft 
in the embrace of her python. She lay upon her side, 
her face turned towards him, her dark mouth a little open,' 
roscid lips pressed into the pillow, eyelashes at rest upuii 
her cheek. He came closer, drawn by the strong lines of 
the neck, of the broad shoulders still beautilul under the 
shapekw swaddle of the blankets. She was delicious 
and she fired him, but yet she was strange where she was 
and he pitied her. Sue in Biarritz I He laughs : what 
an exile I He sat, still looking at her, and very gently 
under the bedclothes found her hand. In her sleep she 
ck>sed her fingeis upon his. Sue in i iarntz • he le lem- 
bered the excited discu-ision when l,e asked her v.h»fe she 
wanted to spend the honejinoon, and she ; 

" Just as you hke ; I'd thought of 1 anisqate. Though 
. . ." and her eyes sparkled, half-wistful. " though / da 
•ays they'll go to Cromer when she gets married." 

Mischievously he replied : " Oh, I wa^ thinking 'A 
Japan. What d'you think. Sue ? " 

" Don't m«kc game of me," said Sue, rather hurt. 

The relentless mechanist! , of wealtlt had raptured Sue, 
and Cromer was not for her. She was nearly taken to 
Japan, just for fun, and would have been, perhaps, if 
Huncote had been a good sailor. So slie was taken to 
Biarritz because it would be warm. Now thrre was no 
end to the cytherean worlds to which Sue mw(ht be tran*. 
»ted . . first class aU the way I It was terrible. 



THE PYRENEES Atm PEMBROKE SQUARE 265 

probably she was dreaming of it, and it was a troublesome 
dream, for she moaned a little and her hand struggled in 
that of h*r husband. Still he thought of those scenes, 
of her amazement mixed with fear when she heard they 
were to have a month off. " LitUe Ishmadite I " he thought 
" You're not alone now." And bent down to kiss her very 
■oftly upon the cheek. She was waking and. feeling him 
close, slowly wound about his neck a sleepy arm He 
could not think, he foimd. when he held her so. He could 
only feel, and some of his emotion was esthetic as he 
saw her eyelids struggle, and waited a Uttle arudously 
for tliiit first look of morning that is surprised, shrinking, 
yet full of anticipation, when beauty which in the night 
has died is bom again in a new world. He was thrilled, 
for the bhnd w^s up and the room full of hght. How 
lovely she would look in the pale lucence of the Biscayan air I 
She woke. She smiled. Contentedly she settled closer 
m his arms: " So happy !" she murmured. As he pressed 
her to him, thrilled by the sweet-scented softness of her 
she gave him her hps hke a tired chUd that seeks comfort ' 
soon, and then it was he who was the child, she grasped him' 
closer with drugged intensity, all instinctive, together 
greedy and generous. Much later, when she let him come 
mto the room whence she had expeUed him while she 
dressed, while she put on her blouse he watched the slow 
nse and fall of her breast, wondered whether from that 
soft bosom be could strike the fountain Hippocrene. 

It was all new and delightful, that first fortnight, for 
they went hand in hand, twin explorers, Sue to the dia- 
covery of foreign parts. Roger to that of Sue's heart, a 
land more alien than he knew. They were not active at 
first, and it seemed enough in the intervals of meals 
(those semicolons of Ufe). to walk along the difls and 
watch the sea breathe, stopping sometimes to caress each 
other when a tree or a wall offered shelter. Often, quite 



r 






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a66 



THE STKAKGERS' WEDDIKG 



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unashamed, they lay together silent in the roag^ gpm, 
burning their iaces with sunshine and kisses. Instinctively 
Huncote knew that here Sue was at her best, where 
there was nothing that connected with the life she 
had known, but just sea, earth and air, strange to 
the slum child and regenerating. He did not put 
it to himself like that, but he fdt it every time they 
went down to the beach, where Sue was shocked by the 
Paris bathing dresses, where she would laugh at a police- 
man or a chair-ticketeer, or allude to ^he casino porter as 
" old funny hat." Whenever she did that sort of thing she 
threw him a look of apol(^, as if she had broken a rule 
and was afraid. For Sue in those days was very much 
on her guard and, now and then, when rarely she was 
alone, she used to work out Rules of Conduct : " I must be 
carefuL Mustn't say 'didn't orter' again. I remember 
as Miss Theresa told me. . . ." 

" As " worried her, for Miss Theresa had also told her 
something about " as." She little knew how blessed she 
was in the possession of correct " H's," for when people 
mismanaged their " H's " she did not notice : her ear was 
not trained to the difference. She had learnt by faith 
even to powder her nose, which she thought very fast. 
But Theresa said : " Your nose needs powder. Powder it. 
Only vain women think they're pretty enough to go 
about with it shiny." Then she thought : " Got to be 
refined now and use a napkin." A moment of anxiety when 
she thought that some people called them "serveets"; 
she thought, too, of Sir Ludus's young lady now that she 
was married to Sir R.. and therefore was Lady R. It 
was wonderful, but a little daunting, rather like being a 
queen at the age of six and going through the coronation 
ceremony with an extra heavy crown. 

But she was not tmhappy: she had no time to be 
unhappy, for impn^ons rushed upon her, railway 
stations that did not look like railway stations as one 
knew them, and advertisements of unknown ccmunodities : 



THE PYRENEES AMD PEMBROKE SQUARE 367 

Quinquina Dubonnet , . , Galeries Lafayette . . . 
Chocolat Mmier. She was rather fond of tiie latter, for 
she half-understood it; that was chocolate anyhow, 
and as for Menier, she concluded that was cream. Here, in 
Biarritz, evetything was queer; the people drinking in 
the streets under awnings, and among them real ladies ; 
the bank officials, dressed hke officers on parade; the 
funny little donkeys carrying what looked like ten times 
their weight. Everything was funny except, perhaps, the 
slow oxen that came, boimd in couples undo- the yoke, 
with a lovely rhythm in their swaying heads and dewlaps 
of velvet. The draught-oxen starred in her something 
inexpmsible ; she stopped her ht.band once to look at a 
couple that passed. They were \ y large, the colour of 
curds and whey, and their broaa oellies, a little rough, 
shone hke mercerised cotton. Huncote understood vaguely 
that she liked them. 
" Aren't they beautiful ? " he said. 
" Oo. yes," said Sue, and felt a lump in her chest because 
she could not explain more than that. 

They left the town sometimes to go to St. Jean de Luz, 
♦iiat is like peach blossom upon a white wall, to San Sebas- 
tian, villa.*; and boulevards clustaing with a French air 
under the crag where is the bull ring, Afric's outpost, 
pink brick and yellow sand hke a stain of blood and gold. 
It frightened her, all this colour, for never before had she 
seen much but the grey and black of London streets, and 
leaves that have strewn ashes over their bodies in prevision 
of their own death. But it was anxious, too ; it was truly 
the wedding journey with its Uterary accompaniments of 
riot; it was revelation, rev(dution, a piece of new Ufe 
suddenly forced into the old. Sue felt that never had 
life been so vivid, and she wondered innocently whether 
it would always so be, without work, without need to 
bother about money, without rain, without wrangles, and 
with love. ^^ 

For she loved him, the knight who had come to her 



a68 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



drawn by swans; she loved both him and his sUver 
annour, and there was no fear she should lose him by ««««« 
his name : simpler than Elsa, she would have been too 
•hy, and it was enough that he should walk with her in 
that silver armour. 

Her husband's mood varied Uttie; satisfied, at last, in 
his desire, able to Uve without thinldng about it, he was 
content to be with her, to watch her move, to hear her 
laugh, and to let himself believe that as it was* so would 
it ever be. He was just sensuous in those days, feeling 
and hearing, smelling, seeing, an animal with the intellectual 
faculties of man added to heighten the animal's enjoy- 
ment. But still, sometimes a Uttle of his own self came 
up, and he saw. One morning Sue was not very well, 
she looked pale, seemed restless. At first he hesitated 
to inquire, out oi discretion; then she confessed that 
she had slept ill that she had indigestion. It gave him 
an awful shock omehow one ought not to have indi- 
gestion on the ht ymoon, it was not romantic ; in Sue's 
case indigestion m de Jp nose rather red. She did not 
get up early tnat moHung, and he went out alone. He 
walked rather mis ibly along the coast, nearly all the 
way to the racecou. •, it was a calamity that Sue should 
have indige tion ; at this was the honeymoon he thought 
indigestion serious. Indigestion occupied all his thoughts 
and he wondered why this healthy young woman should 
suffer from it. Then he remembered, and it gave him a 
shock. He had vaguely noticed Sue's behaviour at m«^ls ; 
her idea of hors-d'oeuvre was four sardines, several pieces 
of sausage, plenty of bread and butter, some cucumber, 
and all the olives. She always had potatoes with the fish, 
and plenty of each vegetable after the roast. When it 
came to ice cream, well, she might have been an American, 
and there never was much left in the fruit dish even if it 
had contained half-a-dozen oranges and a pound of grapes. 
He grew quite hot as he thought of it. " She's greedy," 
he thought, gloomily. Then still more gloomily : " She'll 



THE PYRENEES AND PEMBROKE SQUARE 269 

get fat and coarse." He had a horrible vision of his 
^aceful love growing, well, just like those wWte-faced 
French and Spanish women round him. with pendulous 
cheeks and downy ears and mouths. He hated her as in 
his mmd he destroyed her beautv. But almost at once 
that other inteUectual self, which ten days had swathed 
in soisuous veib. remarked to him : 

" Wait, you don't understand ! Don't you know why 
she eats so much? Don't you know that all her Ufe, 
perhaps, she has never had quite enough to eat ? " 

It was pathetic, but it was terrible, too ; it was like 
discovering an unclean past. 

§3 

And yet he loved her. They went out one evening, past 
St. Andrew s Church, and on up the cUff. As they went 
they talked desultorily. Sue of a giri she knew who had 
been givMi a fox terrier as a birthday present. Did she 
hke dogs? Terriers? Yes. rather. She didn't hold with 
lapd«>gs. They discussed the temperaments of Scotch 
and Insh terriers. 

" Awful fighters." said Sue. 

The talk wandered on to the butcher's fierce buU terrier 
in Northboume Road. Still they climbed the cliff. At 
the top they had discarded dogs and had got to cats • 

"Don't like cats." said Sue. "nasty, deceitful things! 
You never know what they're up to." 

Little by Uttle. the conversation dwindled in the night 
of fire and black opal that was about them, proper frame 
for their passion. He had laid an arm about her shouldeni 
that felt warm under the thin wrap, and she said nothing 
r^t stood by his side, looking out over the murmuring sea' 
^e moon lay low upon the horizon, hke a pan of flame. 
Huncote thought of the eye of Cyclops set in a blue brow. 
A thm fihn of gauzy cloud swathed a half of the moon, 
hke a yashmak. 
, Himcote said : 



if 



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i^ttKtyx- .'j» 



ayo 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



" Isn't 8he beantifal like that ? Look how the Unslies. 
Ii that because I have kissed yoa and it makes her shy ? 
Perhaps her man's gone out of town." 

She laughed and nestled closer : " Don't you think die's 
beautiful ? " he persevered, determined to tear from her 
tome appreciation, " like that, like a big round flame ? " 

" When she's red like that," Sue murmured, " it means 
ram. 

He felt offended and repelled ; he almost drew his arm 
away, but as she spoke she had come closer to him, as if 
telling him: 

" I can't tell you how beautiful she is because I can't 
talk, that is because I can't think, but I can feel." 

He saw something of that in the eyes that seemed so 
large and dark in the white face, faintly lit. 

" Kiss me," she said. 

It was the first time she had said that, and as he bent 
down to caress her, all afire with the discovery of his 
love, there was no room for intellectual difference. He 
held her : it was just she and he. He kissed her, and it 
was they. 

S4 

It was a blue, m}^erious night, pale and fugitive, hung 
with little golden stars, the southern night made for 
white courts and the romantic rides of Don Quixote, a 
ni^t like blue silk flecked with gems. And yet. as if 
the world hated darkness, a faint light promised day and 
the thunderous sun; the night already seemed melting 
in the dawn, as a nymph surprised, leaving behind her 
a trail of rose and mauve, sweet heralds of a fiercer air. 
In the smoking-room two men talked. 

" Queer cou|de, " said one voice. It was a dear, well- 
bred voice, that ai the highly-brushed man, with the 
cropped moustache, soldier probably, iHk> at dinner sat 
two tables away from ti^ Huncotes with the woman 
who k)Qked like a daster and was. therefore, probably 



THE PYRENEES AND PEMBROKE SQUARE 271 

an Anglo-Iiidiaii. •()! conne, it's quite obvious," the 
vdce went on. " Usual sort of thing, you know.' 

" Oh," said the other voice, " I hardly ttiinir it can be 
what you say . . . they're so quiet." 

" What's his name ? Huneker ? " 

" Something Uke that. Huneker or Hinker, I think." 
^ " WeU, one can't be sure," said the well-brushed man 
"but . . you only have to look at them. He's 
all right, but she ... oh, you know the sort. Mind 
you, they're very decent girls," he added, hurriedly. 
• May be her first bust for aU we know. I remember a 
pal of mine ran a little girl like that for quite a year. I 
forget where he picked her up, in one of the big shops, I 
think." 

" She's wearing a wedding-ring." 

"Oh, wedding-rings I " said the highly-brushed man. 
•Surely that's nothing. The jeweller doesn't ask you 
for your marriage lines, does he ? " 

They laughed together. The man who looked like a 
company director said : " Somebody'U cut him out." 

In a nudging tone the highly-brushed man replied : 

• Not yet ; in a year or two. They aU go that way." 

Officially they were Mr. and Mrs. Huncote. Many of 
the guests agreed with the speakers ; others trusted the 
wedding-ring; scepticism prevailed most among the 
women, especially among those who thought Huncote too 
good for Sue. Being discussed, they also became cele- 
brated. Huncote was already morbidly self-conscious, so 
he soon understood from the turnings of heads when 
people talked on the terrace, from covert looks flung at 
them over newspapers, and from eyes which until he came 
in were fixed upon golf dubs, that they were being watched. 
Either they were disapproved of or "they were curiosities. 
Don Quixote may love the peasant Dulcinea, but Oxford 
may not mate with the wash-house. Three days later a 
large schoolboy, clad in a blazer so violent that he evidently 
belonged to a school founded by Cedric the Saxon, whis- 



«7a 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



peied to his sister as he passed : " That's him I " In the 
afternoon the Huncotes moved to St. Jean de Lnz. 

They were happier at St. Jean de Luz. and Sue lived 
in her dream. Huncote recovered, for they did not go 
to the Continental but to a smaller hotel where they were 
the only English guests, and much admired of the French 
and Spaniards. Sue bloomed as if marriage had brought 
to her a ftiller Ufe. Watched, she ate less and, besides, 
already her appetite was waning as she paid in satiation 
the price of wealth. She looked charming, for Theresa 
had done her work well ; she wore white linen skirts with 
lingerie blouses, white patent leather belts with red enamel 
buckles that went well with her dark hair. In the evening 
she was like a moth in flimsy, half-evening frocks of 
crfipe de chine or chiffon. They were very wonderful to 
her, those frocks, and when she was alone she liked to 
lay them out on the bed and stroke them : before doing 
that she always washed her hands, for she could not yet 
realise that in her new station her hands would genersilly 
be clean. The frocks worried her a Uttle, even though 
they were not very low-cut, for she was modest, and before 
she married had never exposed anything of her person 
above the elbow ; in those modest evening clothes which 
Theresa had tactfully chosen so free from audacity. Sue 
fdt dreadfully naked. But she liked it, too : it felt fast, 
exciting; there was something night-clubbish about it, 
it was just like Ada Nuttall. Sometimes she wished that 
Miss Theresa— she meant Theresa— 4iad let her have an 
extra quarter size in shoes. There was only one blot, 
her best lace blouse. When Theresa bought the trousseau 
she found that Sue had only three chemises, six handker- 
chiefs, and two pairs of combinations. Sue explained 
that one did not need to have many things when one 
could always wash them ; she was rather horror-stricken, 
brought nearer to the idea of bankruptcy when she had 
to thread ribbons through several dozens of garments, 
and to learn the use of petticoat bodices of lace and lawn. 



11^ 



THE PYRENEES AND PEMBROKE SQUARE 



»73 



iMltted 
which ihe 



#.— — --— . «,wu4c» wdv Miea and the 
JTa^cT'^ ^y t^<»e my-teriou. th^ wn«:n «» 

**"** oCtll on no on* e«rAn* ^M> 4U " »»M*»<i mam 

in Regent Str^^e ^T^^a^JL*^*^*^ « ^^ 
undentood " the holv adm^ SL7' ^ *"«^ ' "*« 
But. Theresa'. ev«^JS. J ''^^ P*''*^y *»««^" 

quieUy s^^ So tS^' Sue's l^^^^'V"^'^ 
" IfU come in 'andvin^hlr ? . ""^^^ ^*** "ouse: 
dress, as the^sa^LZ^JZ^Tl ^^^^ *^«» "^^ 
it's a shame^toTast^t^ 5^ *° ^ ^"«**"- "An' 

education had not yet b^^nT h»h* ' ^^', °«Jt™«»iai 
a rich blouse the\irt o? w ^ ' ^^"^ '^ ^^^''^ "o"»e. 
a velvet S;t.*' sr^^'^t'^,^- ^^^o wear with 
suddenly, with a skirt of wLe driS ^^ ^ ^"^ ^^*' 
or two pendants: ^e b£%tLf th^" T!.""' 
happened. Huncote did not^e^^ *?*"• ^°*^^ 
thing wrong with the Woul. tThe^'^^^^nT 
wages of virtue is blindjiesa R„* k f^' *"*^ ^ 

disUked somethi^l^t^s «tun rH*^.'""^' ^ 
appointed that >,« ^i!I * get-up. And she was dis- 

oKrhLve th^i°°* '°°^*"* "P°° "^ "««• He 

ofTLJSo^kVintoM;: k: ^° r'.^^ ^-^ 

them. She n;Ct^'\iaf JfT^S'rf^.' ^"^ '"^^^^^^ 

nnf^^ co'nnwnplace convereations. But they we» 
not commonplace ; they were thrilling he^uJZlZT 

earned three pounds aweTk -!^ L **^^'" '^"^ 

iiuuuas a wee* and you may not beliew 

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274 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



it, bttt she plays after dinner at the big hotels and has 
her name in the Sunday paper." Also he laid bare the 
deeper roots of the indigestion : the budget of the Groby 
family. Stonemasonry was a good trade, but out 
of Mr. Groby's thirty-eight shillings a week, eight shil- 
lings went in rent ; there were eight shillmgs for Mr. 
Groby's fares, beer, tobacco, newspapers, hospitality," 
trade-imion, and clubs. The Insurance Act being men- 
tioned he defended it, but was completely routed by the 
expert. 

" What d'you want an Act for ? " asked Sue. " We only 
pay more than we used to to the Hearts of Oak. And 
you've got to go (m with the Burial Club, let alone the 
unemployed insurance." 

He tried to clear up the muddle by working out the 
total per week, but Sue knew so infinitely more about the 
cost of funerals and the actual price charged by the slum 
doctor for his advice and a bottle of red, about the cost 
of getting to the hospitals and the time you had to wait 
there, that he had to give in. He had to take her facts 
as she gave them to him, from the source, and to try and 
understand how the five of them Uved on the remaining 
twenty-two shillings a week : 

"Potatoes," said Sue, with an air of general lucidity. 
It was heart-breaking and yet wonderful. It was good 
to be Cophetua and raise up such an exquisite be^ar- 
maid. He loved her all the more for having been poor, 
for now he stood between her and poverty : he was helpmg. 
he was protecting, and so he could love. 

One by one, the autumn days of the South that are such 
as summer languidly passed away. It seemed difficult to 
remember -the old urgencies of London, the smells of 
smoke and malt from the brewery behind the High Street, 
and the trams that thundered past. Here all was order 
and beauty, luxury, calm and delight. 

Ga the night before they left for Paris, among his letters 
was one for Sue in Flora's Luidwriting, but there were 



THE PYRENEES AND PEMBROKE SQUARE 275 

f^*i!''^P''^"?/?^*'"* ^"""^ ^«'<*- He read them, 
tor they fascinated him : 

"Had an exciting time this evening. You bet we dined 
well. eh. what! I'm writing this because ma's tight 
though she doesn't know it. Good-night, old p«Si- 
blossoml Perce." tr-^^^ 

This postcard embodied the broader humoure of the 
evening. Divided into two pictures, it showed the bachelor. 
Jus feet on the overmantel, smoking a big cigar with 
the band on m the midst of many bottles, mostly empty, 
while he read a paper, bearing the words :" All the Win- 
ners. The other half represented the married man. in a 
frayed dressing-gown, managing by some miracle to cairv 
tnplets and a feeding bottle, while in the background a 
large and angry wife hovered with a poker. 

He turned the thing over in his hand, then looked at the 
other. This one was sentimental, represented a couple 
bowered m roses, she with her hair just out of curlei^ 
and he very pink-cheeked, like a young German barbed 
aware that he is being photographed. It bote this 
httle poem : 

Hope 

At the stile I stand a-dieaming 
Of the day we joined our hands. 
And a future I am weaving 
For you r id me in distant lands. 

He stood staring at them for a long time, feeling all 
dull and unable to think of what he should do Tbsre 
was nothing to do. he thought, except to wait. When 
Sue saw the cards she laughed. She seemed quite un- 
conscious ot offence. She even showed him the picture 
of London comedy, inviting him to laugh, too. especiaUy 
at the tnplets. It was curious : modest to the point of 
prudery m aU that concerned the relations of the sexes 
she seemed quite careless of results which popular tast^ 
nad taught her to regard as humorous. But, finding him 
cold, she suddenly grew embarrassed and tried to stu€ 



:> 
■•■>■ 



M 






276 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



the cards away into an absent apron pocket. Finding 
no pocket, she grew scared and stood crumpling the cards 
in excited little hands. Then, shamefacedly, with visions 
of Sir Lucius's young lady passing through her unhappy 
mind, she murmured : ** 1 s'pose they been having a bit 
of a sing-song." 

§5 

It was just after lunch. She had been married two 
months. She felt more comfortable just now, for at last 
Rhoda had gone downstairs, had ceased to keep an eye 
on her while she ate, an uncomfortable expert eye, con- 
sidering one still had to think out which knife when it 
came to fish. Not that Rhoda had ever adopted a judicial 
attitude : she was too well-trained for that. If Rhoda 
had been told to serve up lunch in a trough her blue 
eyes would have remained unemotional, and either she 
would have said, "Yes, mum," or given notice on the 
spot ; in neither case would an opinion have been mirrored 
in the blue crystal of those eyes. 

Sue was alone and looked, with a content in which was 
still a little awe, at her dining-room. Huncote at Oxford 
had never belonged to the aesthetic push, the push that 
plays Vincent d'Indy and wears chocolate-coloTired cloaks ; 
so his ideas of fumishmg were not those of the Russian 
ballet ; he was in the old furnitxire stage, seven years 
late. Sue sat at a gate-leg table, a little awkward, for 
she had not yet found out whether one should put both 
knees outside, or both knees inside, or one inside and one 
outside the double leg. As in those days, by Theresa's 
orders, she wore a tight, almost hobble skirt, she vividly 
realised some of the bars of the gilded cage. 

She looked round, and again she was a little awed by 
the tablecloth with its glistening flying birds, the rather 
colourless but evidently refined imitation Lowestoft 
crockery, the pale green vase full of amber chrysanthe- 
mums. She looked angrily at the chrysanthemums: 



THE PYRENEES AND PEMBROKE SQUARE 277 

why, when she did them herself, did the bundle look pot- 

beUied like a publican, while Rhoda alone had the art 

of giving their long stalks languor and grace? It all 

looked very queer, the paneUed waUs and the cold white 

of the distemper, the Jacobean dresser with its wiUow- 

pattem plates, and the toby jugs on the top. which Sue 

thought quaint. One by one, she again surveyed every 

article of furtuture. ladder-back chairs, hanging electric 

lamp m beaten black iron, rather severe, queer curtains 

with sprawling birds, and red and blue carpet much too 

good to tread on. She walked about the room rather 

aimless ; she had nothing to do, and wished she was tike 

Ada NuttaU. a rip, and could smoke cigarettes. But 

cigarettes made her rather ill, especially after coffee: 

she longed for a cup of strong tea. 

But still it was very wonderful and new. She went out 
mto the hall, the little green and white haU with prints 
of ugly theologians, which she knew must be good because 
obviously the frames cost such a lot. How beautiful the 
short, firm Axminster pUe felt. Of course it would never 
do to have a dog . vaguely she wished there was a dog. 
sometbmg to make a noise. For there was no noise down- 
stairs, where Rhoda and Ethel were refinedly having 
theu- dinner. On the drawing-room landing she paused, 
made as if to go in then changed her mind. Instead she 
went up to the next floor, where was her bedroom and that 
of her husband. Chaste and regular was her bedroom 
with Its Chippendale su^te its big white cupboard set in 
the comer, the tall mirror let into the wall, and the many 
switches leading to lights in apparently unnecessary 
places. There were very few pictures, just some colour 
prmts. and over the mantelpiece a row of prints of little 
girls, called " London Cries." Sue thought they looked 
rather silly kids. Indeed, in the whole room, where she 
now stood rather worshipping, there was nothing personal 
m half curtain, lace toilet cover or silver brush. It was 
wonderful ; it felt like the day she had been to the Loan 



'ii 



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278 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



Exhibition of pictures at the St. Panwich town hall ; it 
made her respectful. She was living among the sort of 
things which normally one saw only in the shop windows. 
She was still a little dazed, though she had slept in this 
room for a month ; it had complexities she did not quite 
widerstand, a mischievous double switch especially, which 
always seemed to turn on the light near the bed when she 
wanted it over the dressing-table. Only one thing seemed 
real: between the windows a large steel engraving of 
" Wedded." Roger did not at all like " Wedded," but Sue 
had bought it out of a money present he insisted upon 
giving her at the end of the engagement, and what could 
he do? What could he do, especially when she flung 
herself back into his arms in the attitude of the Roman's 
bride, and said : " It's just like you and me ! " 

For a long time Sue remained staring at the picture: 
yes, that was art. (She had been hearing a little abou^ art 
lately.) It was more than art, it was different from 
everytiiing else in the room. All these things. Sue admired 
them, but she had m ver thought of possessing them ; the 
picture, yes, that had been a dreann, but attainable, and 
she had attained it, while the other things represented a 
foreign life. Still, she had nothing to do. She remem- 
bered Flora had said something about lying down after 
dinner . . . lunch, she meant. But then Sue had 
always had something to do at that time, and she could not 
get used to lying down. She went into Roger's room, next 
to hers, rather nervously. It ftightened her, this place so 
definitdy masculine, for it had never entered her mind 
that a married couple might have two rooms, or even two 
beds. The arrangement had never been discussed, for 
Himcote had no principles in those things ; after taking 
the house, he found it so awkwardly planned that the 
front room was not much larger than the back one. Two 
beds would have crowded it, and so Flora, half to help and 
half to shock, induced he brother to have his own room. 
" It's queer 1 " thought Sue. It was a little bleak to her 



THE PYRENEES AND PEMBROKE SQUARE 279 
as weU as queer, and even wore?. She had assumed that 
mamage was a pecuUar and continuous intimacy: two 
nwms mevitably made that intimacy spasmodic and 
purposeful. For Sue was modest ; she was one of those 
who thmk that nothing mattere if it seems unintentional. 
She loved him. she had a sUent, brooding sensuousness, 
she had led him to a land of new delights without herself 
knowmg the way. But still she could not bear that the 
truth should be true. Separation forced her to realise 
the definiteness of desire. That separation made of her 
room the temple of Aphrodite. She hated that- it 
seemed immodest. It frightened her. it tied her tongue, 
and her husband did not understand. When every even- 
mg he came before going to bed. even when he merely 
sat down upon her bed. took her hand, and talked of 
quite msignificant things, she felt herself grow quite small 
and contracted because, though he was her husband, he 
was within her privacy, and it shocked her that even he 
should mtrude upon this privacy. 

Sue did not want to have any privacy at all • it was not 
normal that privacy should outUve marriage. And some- 
times she would throw her arms about him. drag him down 
to her and kiss him. hiding her eyes against him. He 
thought she loved him then, and was glad ; he did not 
understand that she wanted to hide her eyes because she 
was shy and unhappy. 

Slowly she went downstaire. Son:show it was all too 
much She had not had time to dream during the short 
engagement. In the days of Bert she sometimes thought 
they would take two rooms in the dwellmgs, or some- 
where eUe. After the coming of Huncote, her mother 
gave her thoughts precision. Mr. Groby talked with 
breezy carelessness of Sue having a house of her own. 
That had been terrifying, and then. Uttle by little, the house 
formulated itself : a villa in Lamoro Avenue. Highgate, 
one of the nice Uttle houses with a yeUow gravel front 
garden, and a green dot of grass in the middle. She 



,11 

1 1 



i 



28o 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



showed the little house to Huncote. who laughed, and 
said it would be too small. Mrs. Groby helped her then, 
and very slowly another dream formed, also in Highgate, 
a big double-fronted house, with a drive and something 
vague and impressive called grounds. The Groby family 
found it very difficult to get beyond Highgate, because in 
those fields Sue sometimes took short walks with Bert 
when he came out of the workshop. And they had the 
instinct of their class to Uve as close as possible to each 
other. Like rabbits. 

^ But that did not avail. Even Ada Nuttall's suggestion, 
who wanted for Sue a smart cottage in the country, Finch- 
ley way, with a garage for the car (generous gesture), a 
cottage which might be called Kosikot, was not accepted 
of Flora. What Flora really wanted was a fiat, but 
Huncote's tendency was to shut himself off with his love, 
also to have his own house, hearth, castle. And so it 
became Pembroke Square, because Flora was quite deter- 
mined that as she had not stayed in Clare Street she was 
this time going to stay somewhere. Sue accepted: she 
accepted ever3rthing, but considered the rent, which, so 
far as she could work out, was almost Mr. Groby's 
wages for a year, a lot for a house so poky and tumble- 
down. 

Just outside the drawing-room she stopped again. She 
looked in at the pretty room, with its white and blue paper, 
its rather staring chintzes, the mahogany fumit'ire and 
the prints. There was a fire shining brightly. She hesi- 
tated. Upon the little Vemis-Martin table lay Punch and 
the Morning Post. Still she hesitated, hardly knowing 
why, and then decided that she could not go in. She was 
not, she felt dimly, yet able to sit in the drawing-room 
after dinner . . . lunch, she meant. 

Quiddy she dressed ; she could not find the pair of shoes 
she wanted, and this annoyed her ; Rhoda must have 
taken them away. Then, as it did not occur to her to 
ring the bell, she put on another pair She looted charm- 



THE PYRENEES AND PEMBROKE SQUARE 281 

ing in a blue coat and skirt, the coat rather short, with 
lapels of flowered silk that were very smaU and insignifi- 
cant, she thought. That skirt was tight, but then she had 
asked Ada Nuttall, who laughed at her. She drew on her 
white gloves carefully, and wished they w re not so long, 
for she did not quite know what to do with the part that 
went up to the elbow. She wore a rather large hat that 
threw darkness into the shadows under her eyes. As she 
stood, her neck swathed in her husband's present, a stole, 
only stone marten, but yet incredibly rich, two strips of 
white leather indicating the hands in the muif, she looked 
mature, and there was a little smile of pleasure upon her 
lips. She was going out to look at the shops, wonder 
what she would like to buy, and whether she would have 
the courage to buy it after all. She did not quite like 
herself in these la-owns and blues; the black hat, with 
its Chinese trimming of Wue and gold, disappointed her ; 
she would have liked a touch of real cotour, but Flora 
and Theresa were so interferii^g. Very carefully she went 
downstairs and silently out. Rhoda had not seen her go. 

She breathed more freely in the crisp air. The traffic 
of the gay December day, sunny somehow and brisk, 
pleased and cheered her. She liked everything, the 
motor 'buses, the hurry of the people. And yet at the 
same time she felt that what she left behind somehow 
she took with her. She felt established and house-con- 
scious ; she could not get away from the preoccupation of 
the establishment that was hers, and yet ran itself without 
her. She was responsible and not in charge ; or in charge 
and not responsible. 

She sighed, and then she fotmd that instead of turning to 
the right she ha I turned to the left. She did not know the 
district well, and only the dowdiness of the shops told her 
she was making for Hammersmith instead of for Kensing- 
ton. Aheady she was beginning to detect differences in 
shops. But it was all very wonderful, and for a full hour 
she went on to the Broadway, on to King Street, to gaxe 



lil 



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m 
m 

m 

m 



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38a 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



at bananas, and chain, and handkerchiefs at three- 
three. It felt roan real here than further East ; she knew 
that much. She saw peofde like the St. Panwich people ; 
she had heard voices like theirs before. It was not so 
different here. She had not done any ordinary shop- 
(nng for so long ; she had been only to dressmakers, and 
milliners, and decorators, where everybody spoke so nicely, 
just like ladies and gentlemen. On an impulse she went 
into a little stationer's and bought a familiar penny 
packet of stationery which she did not want. The woman 
called her " Ma'm," and somehow that was not what she 
wanted. She wondered why oppression was suddenly 
come upon her. Why should it with the friendly trams 
roaring past ? with the crowd swirling on and of! the pave- 
ment, just like the High Street, and even the butcher 
shouting further on? ^rhaps it was that already at 
half-past three the December sun was waning and a grey 
rawness falling. Sue did not know. She did not want 
to go anywhere, or to go home, or to stay ; she felt plucked 
out, as if f' were having a bath in the middle of the Albert 
Hall with a full house staring at her. She walked along 
slowly, hardly noticing that she was being jostled. 

She went a long way into the West, noticing less now 
the things about her, and thinking rather dunly of ideas 
rather than of facts. She was not used to that, and it was 
di£BcuIt. She thought o£ herself the night before at the 
theatre, of the conunissionaircs, of the i»t>gramme girls 
who spoke so mcely, and looked so nice, ju<;t like the ladies 
in the dress circle. "Of course," thought Sue, "they 
aren't real ladies, they wouldn't be working if they were." 
It had been difficult, for she did not quite know how to 
treat them when they spoke to her to show her her seat 
or something. She did not really feel superior, for some 
of them were quite as good as Ada Nuttall. Still, and she 
was gloomy over the idea of separation rather than {x-oud, 
she supposed it was different for her, Mrs. Roger Huncote. 
One was a lady when one had seven himdred a yeai. It 



THE PYRENEES AND PEMBROKE SQUARE 283 

did sound a lot. But the idea of wealth did not cheer 
her; it was too much. "Seven hundred a year," she 
thought. " what's that a week, I wonder ? " She could not 
do it. She had as much difficulty in conceiving seven 
hundred a year as one of another class would have had in 
conceiving a million a year; five pounds a week would 
have seemed much more opulent to her. " Besides," she 
thought. " it's all so funny." That was how she put it to 
herself; but what she meant was that all this wealth 
seemed fictitious, that one did not see money, but only bits 
of paper like cheques and account books with big figures 
marked on them, and only a little cash now and then. 
It was not like the princely Fridays when Mr. Groby 
stacked thirty-eight shillings in silver in a tall pile upon 
the table, sometimes more if he had worked overtime. 
That was real, while her present wealth felt like fairy gold, 
and might, if you looked at it in the morning, turn out to 
be only leaves. 

Sue was at the meeting place of two classes, different as 
sea and river, restless in alliance like the waters that break 
upon the bar. In a play of unguessed strangenesses she 
had stumbled while in a state of somnambulism into a new 
world : she awoke and was lost. She had burnt all her old 
gods, and did not yet know how to worship at the new 
shrine. In the new world she found a strange people that 
ate differently, spoke and dressed differently, who spent 
incomprehensible sums, it seemed, for nothing, who had 
endless clothes for occasions that she could not under- 
stand; mysterious games, golf, hunting; liveries for the 
seaside, for the country; people who found pleasure at 
places where nothing much seemed to happen, like Rane- 
lagh and Prince's Skating Club, who seemed quite satis- 
fied to take tea and look at one another and sr^ile. They 
were strange people, indeed, with their voices placed rather 
high m their heads, and their wonderful way of switching 
off when it looked as if they were going to say something 
they really meant. Sue was the product of a cruder, a 



:'!ll 



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I, 






284 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



nfr 

I 



(■ .' 



I 



bloodier civilisation, with its emotions more on the sur- 
face, and now she was lea|^g into the conflict of class 
instead of following the gentle gradient from Paradise 
Row to Highbury, to Hampstead, to South Kensington, 
to Knightsbridge, and then to Mayfair. Sue was taking 
the plunge at a gulp. 

She stopped ; she was a little tired, and did not quite 
know where she was, for she had lost the trams round the 
comer. This was near Ravenscourt Park ; she felt alone 
and cold, and wondered where she could get some tea. 
And thought of something else, as if nothing quieted her. 
Then she found she was staring at the poster of the local 
music hall : 

BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT AND 

AT ENORMOUS COST, THE MANAGEMENT 

HAVE THE PLEASURE AND THE OPPORTUNITY 

OF PRESENTING 

THE MAN OF MYSTERY. 

DE BERE 

With new. costly and gorgeons scenery in a greatly en- 
larged and elaborate entertainment. A performance full 
of excitement, wonder, and educational interest. 

Sue felt that she would like to go. Educational interest 
especially struck her; she did so want to improve her 
mind. But gloom settled upon her. for she toU hereelf 
that in her new station this was no longt- right : music 
halls were not refined. Yet for some time she stayed, 
staring at the poster, rather like a little slum child in 
front of a sweet-shop when it has not got a penny. 

At last she turned to go home, and wondered where to 
find a tram. As she stood on the kerb, rather aimlessly, 
a crawling taxi came towards her, dawdling a little more 
when the driver saw this well-dressed young woman. 
He looked at her inquiringly, but she did not respond; 
she was still wondering where to find the trams, and it 
did not occur to her to take a taxi. 



THE PYRENEES AND PEMBROKE SQUARE 285 

f6 

Mrs. Huncote and Flora came to tea. In a way this 
was tea experimental, for Sue was alone. Dimng the fi™t 
month very few people had caUed upon the yZg ^uple 
when they unexpectedly did so M«. Htico I juiSor' 
was p^dently not at home ; on other occasion Row^ 

the real At Home which, to satisfy the Huncotian tradi^ 
tion. ought to be given, had not yet taken place. Nothing 

♦itl ^"11^'^: ^* "T*^*"' ^^^onsdomly. and his rela- 
tives, dchberately. rather cut off the young bride from 
the social fold, hoping that by-and-by it tould be aU 
nght. This afternoon Sue was not making a sodal d6but 
but having a sort of trial run. It began very well, for the 
weather was bad and. therefore, topical ; also Sue had for 
^r,?"^- f*,"^" ^^ Herbert Tree, and felt so sorry for 
t^ban stuck upon a bit of rock aU alone " that her old 
^legiance to Mr. Lewis Waller needed re^scussing. Mrs 
Huncote did not talk much, but watched her daughter' 
in-law; she liked her that afternoon; she admired her 
taffeta frock, with a hint of panniers. She rather wished 
that her stockmgs were not so vividly blue, but still, on 
the whole ... And Mrs. Huncote thought: "It's 
nr^.^"*^""^' *^« Sirl must have some taste after 
all She wondered how far Miss Underwood was respon- 
sible. But Flora had other concerns. 

" You know. Sue. hair's getting much flatter ; you ouKht 
to keep yours down a bit." 
"^ D'you think I ought ? " said Sue, seriously. 
^ Well, yes ; pads are quite out, >-ou know." 
" I never wore a pad in my life," said Sue. 
" No, I know." said Flora, " it's only your hair that's 
so thick. Wish mine was ; I'm going to cut it off short 
ind have a fringe." 

"Flora!" cried Mrs. Huncote. "How can you talk 
such nonsense ? ' 



1 



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THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



" I am. Everybody's doing it in Paris." 

" WeU, they're not doing it in St. Olaves." 

" They wiU," said Rora, " when I do." 

Mrs. Huncote laughed: "Yes, I can see the Belhus 
girls cutting their hair short like French artists' models ! " 

Sue was interested. " Do they really ? " she said. " I 
shouldn't like to cut my hair short." 

"Oh, do," said Flora, mischievously, "it'U look so 
rapid." 

" Rapid ? " asked Sue. blankly. 

" Fast," said Flora. 

" Don't listen to her," said Mrs. Huncote, " she doesn't 
mean it." 

She need have had no fear, for Sue blushed. " Fast I 
How could Flora be so horrid 1 " The very idea made her 
unable to think of anything. She was glad when the tea 
came, though she lud to struggle with it a good deal, 
to remember to use the sugar tongs, and not to forget to 
let people choose between miUc and cream. And that 
dreadful Rhoda brought up some sliced lemon just because 
she iiad once been in the household of Princess Saraga- 
movsky. All through tea this sliced lemon haunted Sue : 
what did one do with sliced lemon? (She ate some of 
it when they were all gone, and liked it.) 

The talk went round theatres and dress, easy enough 
then ; Mrs. Huncote helped a lot, for she was going to 
the Riviera for a while with Elspeth. Flora was not 
envious, as this would enable her to stay in London. 

"You must ask Roger to bring you over before we 
leave," said iSis. Huncote, kindly; "youT] like it, it's so 
pretty, all pink and blue." 

"I know," said Sue, and thought of the Pyrenees. 
" It's lovely. I used to look at the pictures, you know 
... tl^ big pictures outside Charing Cross, and 
wonder what it was Uke." 
" Charing Cross ? " said Mrs. Huncote, puzzled. 
" The railway advertisements, mother," ssud Flora. 






THE PYRENEES AND PEMBROKE SQUARE 287 

♦hl^^'" ^i ^- ^™*~**- '^^ was it as fine as 
the railway advertisements. Sue ? * 

i/^'.^C'f^^'"'''*' • • ■" Then she hesitated. 
It aU looked lovely on the railway advertisemeS aS 
yet . . somehow ... So she said: 'I d'no" 
and went on struggling with the difference between ihiut 
of blue sea when one was not quite comfortable as to on"s 
behaviour, and the easier joy of a railway advertS^^J 
which one could look at with Ada NuttaU. whUe^^eS 
theother ,f young men stared, and sucked pepperminte^^ 
They talked of pictures at the gaJleiiesft^^ Sue 
did what she could. Mrs. Huncote had a lot t^Lof 
Lady Montacute. Ihis reduced Sue to partij stoL- 
the Idea that she might one day meet I^lfonSSe 
^^terrifying. Did one knJl ? or was 2.?^^^ 

At last th y went away. 

m.^'!^ """•"?** said: D'you know, she isn't bod. She 
may d^pe mto something if we don't huny her. At ^ 
rate she Imows how to keep her mouthSurand w^^ 
she opens it her teeth are rather pretty" 

.^ai^^c^'' "" ^'" ^^ ^^' '-^« -^ ^^ 

silt ^°" r?S?'* "^ '^«'" ^^** Mrs. Huncote. 

Sue felt much better. Alter aU. it had gone off quite 
well; t was only her relations, but stiU they were >^ 
new relatwns and she felt that she had done we?- ^ 
^ much reheved. Only she was rather hungr^for Z 
^ not used to a hght lunch and this elem^'a^ tS! 
She ^d never eaten much meat, but she was accSo^ 
to a fiUmg, mdigestible meal, mainly made up of po^ 
and bread about i o'dock. As Rhoda's id^ of^kl^ 
was something Uke an anchovy, a one eggWlette ^h 

to LSL""^; "P ""^ ^"^^ "^^ '^""^^ that you hS 
to double before you could hold it. She thoueht^ 
haddocks, and sighed. "Jougnt ox 






a88 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



I I 



|i!i 



! 



" WeU," asked Roger, in the evening, " how did it go 

off ? " 

" Oh, it was aU right," she said. 
" Any news ? " 

She looked at him blankly. What news could there be ? 
He asked what Flora had said; she tried to tell him, 
but he was not veiy interested in her hair troubles, and 
when once more she returned to the Tree v. Waller con- 
troversy he was not interested either ; he seemed to have 
heard enough of it. He seemed, especially, to want to 
know how Sue liked his mother and sister, for he knew 
how necessary it was that she should hke them. 

" Oo, I do like 'em," said Sue. " They always seem to 
know . . . well, they always do right, don't they ? " 
He laughed : " I don't know, but I think I know what 
you mean. Of course, anybody'd like Flora." 

" I did at once." said Sue, " though I'm not one for 
taking fancies." 

" Sue," he asked after a while, thoughtfuUy shaking the 
ash from a cigarette, "what about your old friends? 
The girls you used to know ? Why don't you ask them 
along ? " He did not know why he said this ; he wished 
nothing better than to be rid of all her old friends, includ- 
ing her family, if that were possible. 
" WeU," said Sue, " I didn't know whether you'd like it " 
" Don't be silly," he said, taking her hand and stroking 
It. " Do try and understand you're quite free. I s'pose 
you don't understand that, do you ? " ^^ 

^' Don't see what you mean," said Sue. 
" I mean, you can do what you like. Be a httle care- 
ful. . . ." He felt acutely vmcomfortable. "There's 
been a change, of course. But stiU, anybody you used to 
hke, ask them to see the house. I don't want to keep 
you away from everybody, your giri friends, or even the 
men you used to know." 

" Roger I " said Sue, rather shocked, " I couldn't know 
any men— not now." 






THE PYRENEES AND PEMBROKE SQUARE 289 

He kissed her cLk a^'d, J?^ * ^"^^^ ^^^^ ' " 
she wj^^^."^' *"^ ^e d«i not seem to notice : 

" You know." she said. « it feels awfully funnv If VA 
mamed somebody else, a man like ^» S'^^^." ^^** 

of Bert, and altered ii to^'^ftho- V "^^^ thought 
couldn't go about with al^bcl?; ^^ ' "^ *^ ^°-' ^ 

you^u^nde^Se^T^:^ ll^ZL Z^ ^^^^^^ 
Sue, ii't it ? " "«» 8»« t<><lo without it. llafs it. 
" Itl "Ti^i "T I™' " "^ '*»'■" ^d Sae gnrigingly 

an?!S.T" ""y.^^^ssed the curious nominaHy seriess 
Oh. well," she said "it'«; pa«w <».^„»u x 

^up'tpr;.^^,^:^-™- 

Come along ^th me to-night, we'll go to the Hath 
and have some fun, and . • » 5 w lae neatn 

Huncote interrupted : "'what'did you say ? " 
I said, • No fear.' " y ^y r 

fieS ^u'J T^ Wm to find her so virginaUy 
fierce, capable through her innocence of protectingSf 

19 



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290 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



where a more wily one would have fallen. He tried to 
leam more of this world where adventure sounded so 
much more sudden and more violent than in his own, 
but she had grown self-conscious. These topics gone 
they found nothing else to say ; he smoked, and she sat 
there, gently kicking the little Vemis-Martin table. They 
both grew aware that they had nothing to say, and that 
was awkward. But their marriage was young : he kissed 
her; so held, though so different, they felt that they 
were of the same essence. 

Much later in the evening, before they went to bed, 
some of the thoughts that occupied her were spoken at 
last. Sue was bothered because she had no money, and 
very reluctantly asked for some. 

" But I don't understand," said Roger ; " you've got your 
cheque-book." 

" Yes," said Sue. 

" Well, draw a cheque." 

She looked at him with sad, dark eyes ; she had often 
looked at that cheque-book with the blank figure, £ : : , 
that might mean anything- but what she ought to do 
she did not knew. He understood suddenly : 

" Sue, you've never written a cheque, have you ? " 

" No," said Sue, helplessly. 

" rU show you." 

They spoilt two cheques, making out one to the gas 
company for a htmdred millions. 

"And would they really give me a hundred - ' js" 
asked Sue, " for that ? " 

He kissed her again ' he loved her for iaeing stupid, 
little by little Sue grew bolder, she made a cheque out to 
him; she felt very proud because it contained pounds, 
shillings, and pence. It was an exciting exercise, it was 
Uke making money ; the blank cheque looked impressive, 
but the cheque filled in was a sort of thunder-clap ; just 
before she signed she felt the sort of hush come over 
her which forms in a music-hall when the man on the 



IHE PYRENEES AND PEMBROKE SQUARE 29, 
Tj^i 8oiiW to do his great trick Mid the otdHstm 

hS'^ha^m^ SrSfon""^ f '^«^^ 
dently thaTsr™,trf to JL = '^.*°'"' "^ '^■ 

l-d^ pitiful befo^^t^ ^•eSo"^ -^^ ^"«''-« "» 

The quietist morality amused him "An^ ««,i, » 
rf 1-;t ""^ ■"« ^'^ iTd We.^" "^''"'' 

too civilised, and it was horrible alie^ t^S dSr.^i 

w^ passionate and hLbleTJnJ^ a^t " 

courage failed her. She wanted toli^Hie ^ic ?"! 
e.s She Passed^hrongh^f ^tf,,nra'^ 



!i . j 



292 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



wnttm cbeqae, made out to Mrs. Roger Huncote, for 
live shiliings. She ivas f or many months to have plenty 
of trouWe with cheques. By and by. as her cheques grew 
• f5 ^*^ ^^ experience, eyebrows were no longer 
raised at her, but one day she drew a cheque for ten pounds, 
and when the young man, now grown polite, said, "How 
wiU you have it ? - she said, " 111 have it now." The 
staff of the bank behaved disgracefuUy to her that day. 

S7 
He loved her. stumbling on like this through the mys- 
tenes of another class. He loved her hesitations, always 
due to the fear of offending, her anxiety not only to behave 
like a real lady, but stiU to be what she really was. Sue 
Groby, much more than Susan Huncote ; always tender, 
always ready to help, and never conscious that she was 
domg so. Her family were, established, for, though Mr. 
Groby continued in the stonemasonry, a pc^^nd a week 
came to the Grobys ; Pterce now went to the City and 
Muiiel was passing on to a young ladies' academy. She 
had begun the piano, and. oh, faithless one ! found nothing 
but vulgarity in the mouth-organ of Rotppo. 

Huncote learnt how much ateady Suc mattered to him 
when, for three days, he had to go to Manchester to decide 
whether some .smaU cottages his mother owned near 
Gmde Bridge should be pulled down and rebuilt. She 
wrote to him every day long letters in a child; h round 
handwriting, unpunctuated letters with indiscriminate 
" darlings " scattered in them, and " tons of kisses " at the 
end, and crosses which he understood ; they thrilled him 
nearly as much as her caresses. Only one thing puzzled 
him, an inscription on the outside of the envelope everv 
morning: S.W.A.K. 
When he came back he asked her : 
• Sue. why d'you put S. W. A. K. outside my letters ? 
What does it mean ? " 

She laughed and blushed: "It means, 'sealed with a 
kiss/ you silly 1 • 



CHAPTER THE SECOND 

HESITATION 

When away *„. Sue'^Xt^ii^S^^/^rw^^ 

perceive she was not cultured ir his spn«. • »i,^ »:\j 

refinement of emotion beyond >I" wLr^fin/^tn^** * 
intellerfnai K,i* i,„ J""" ois, wnose rehnement was 

mieiiectual. but he was conscious that she had nnt fhl 
habit of an atmosphere of refinement qk« ,^ 
leave old slippers I the nn"d^:T;he''LSt^* 
becauseit was untidy. whUe he would not lel^"!^ 
there because it was upIv ti,^ i;**i ^^- "***" 

uj« K was ugly. The httle things, so many, of 



£ 



ill 

liij 



•11' 



294 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

which life is made seemed continually to bring up this 
difference. Slightly she bruised him and slightly he 
chilled her. They loved each other, and yet were bruised 
and chiUed; they made allowances which were ahnost 
criticisms. 

One day she came to fetch him at the Settlement. 
TTiey mtended to shop a little, and then, after a hasty 
dinner, to go on to one of the Promenade concerts. He 
was happy with her as they went along Oxford Street, 
for the cold wind had stung rose into her dark cheeks ' 
other men looked at her, and Huncote felt proud to be 
with a woman at whom other men looked. And Sue 
keeping very close to him, felt that other girls envied her' 
They knew each other to be desirable then because othere 
seemed to think so ; they were dogs in each othei's manger 
possessive, therefore lovers. It was amusing to shop,' 
to differ, and so easily to give way. just to resist enough 
to have the pleasure of surrendering. They bought a 
new bottle for his dressing-case ; they went into Selfridge's 
to buy a veil, and Sue did not feel too shy of the young 
ladies who seemed to respect her. It was lucky she could 
not read thought and reahse the envy of the young lady 
at the veils, who wondered wht ' ,?r the nice young fellow 
had picked her up inside or outside the shop. She was 
treated to a pound of chocolates at the Maison Tigre, and 
as they crossed the road she remembered just in time 
for anxiously she had opened the box and was preparing 
to put a chocolate into her mouth. They stopped nearly 
opposite, at the picture shop, and Sue looked very respect- 
fuUy at the autotypes. "The Laughing CavaUer," "The 
Majordomo." She stared for a long time at " Mona Lisa " 
then said: 
• Don't she look wicked ? " 

This offended him a little, and he took her round the 
comer, but there, before " The Bath of Psyche," Sue grew 
rigid. 

" I know I oughtn't to hke that," said Huncote. " It's 



HESITATION ^ 

tat S ^"^^'j^-^ nothmg to the unaguution 

any Walter ScoTt ?^' ^^^ ""' ^^« y<«» «^ 

"No." 

A^l^r.ort's.it.'^ «-»•• ".^„ «r " 

matter? " ' ***"» what s the 

yo«T-" *^ '^ l^ly l^'t got enough on, don't 

thoi S^"' '"""i''Z'1| «- "- P~ple show 
locked up.5l of iLem " HmUSS J*^'' '™«''* *" "» 

■X^??' «'si°>^ ^^*^"»- rs 



ri 



• Hi I 

m 



Hi 



296 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



^;i:i 



to abont seven, and neither of them had that Their Ufe 
was to be one mainly of pleasure, and they did not know 
how to take that together. So in the evenings it had 
turned out a little as Sue expected, for Roger read and 
smoked, while she, deprived of the chance of making 
htouses, amended most unsuccessfully those which Theresa 
had ordered for her in Wigmore Street. She was more 
famihar with him now, and he with her. That humanised 
him. and she loved him better when, having confessed to 
him the history of the novelette, she was aUowed to call 
hkn -Sir R."; childish lover, she liked to be called 
Susie and even "Suekins." But familiarity which 
bred ease tended also to breed free and ease, which was 
not quite so successful. In those days there was a case 
in the Law Courts which had amused her rather much 
She had learnt by heart some of the lover's verses, and 
one night she recited them to him : 

He sent a letter to his love. 
But in his mind he fumbled. 
He put that letter in the care of another hand 
Then stumbled. 
Bow, wow, wow, wumbled. 

She recited them with great gusto, especiaUy the last hne 
which she rendered as : ' 



Bow, wow. WOW, mumbled. 



'Don't you think 



"Don't you like it?" she asked, 
it's funny ? " 

"Oh. yes." he said, rather rigid. "It's very funny." 

She did not understand; she laughed unrestrainedly 
Indeed, she insisted upon telling him aU about the case, 
and in the next days became reminiscent of it. As he 
went out after breakfast, when he kissed her. she held him 
suddenly tight and said : " Let's play lemonade ; I'll be the 
lemon and you be the squeezer." 

It hurt him horribly ; he was a serious young man who 
did not understand the comic side of love. It was soiling, 
all this, and he did not know what to do. did not under- 



HESITATION ^^ 

stand that at a word, if only he chose it weU. the mask of 
comedy would faU and under it he would find^^^ 
mouth and the veUed eyes he sought 

She v^ very lonely when he was out. for she lapidlv 
grew tired of going round and round the house. exaSSi 
her new possessions. She knew the furniture noT^ 
even wonderful little details like the glass shelvrS, ^ 
Uthroom were ceasing to thrill her^ Also. Sue^SS 

S£ SLr^?- ^/ ^P^°°« *«^"« i^d bSn 
ratner fierce. Within a few days of their arrival in the 

house It had rung suddenly as they came in^^ ^ |3 

used his latchkey. Rhoda ^ not^t^^i. ^il,5it 

^mischief. Huna>te rushed Sue to the instrui<^t.^S2 

Wh^i ^iT' ^^ [ J" * '"^ "^"^^ ^ stood and 
laughed helplessly at the and spectacle of Sue han^ 

Z.1 *^* '"^*™"«Jt ^th both hands, speechlei^ 

«,!'! if °°'* w'^u" P"^ ^hisP«d. miserably. " Oh. I 
S^y'd^ :X' "" "'^- "^^ " '* ' ^^' ^ ^ 

<?uI^f!^^'^'\V"'^ ^°^''' " *^"y ^^^^ y°"-" This made 
Sue stamp with rage, and yet she could not let go At 

witn a bang and ran upstairs. 

th J!;Lr'i^^ ^'"^"^ ?""• ^^^ ^ °°* accustomed to 
the pitch of the voice ; indeed, she did not quite know what 

Hr^^^^K^"^ "^^" ^^ °P--^'- wasovlr^d 
^ got mto the most awful messes with the exchange 
because when told to caU up a number she mumbleTk 
and. when pre^ to be clearer, gave her own. They had 
topractise. and Sue leamt just in time. For after a few 
ST"S*l her husband rang her up. pretending to Z 
^e Archbishop of Canterbuiy. which idea ahncTfeducS 
h^to hystencs. She learnt just before it began to ^ 



vti 



^■\' 



«98 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

"Pressed^^^eLT^^tl^^ ^^f ^' to be 
pork was mther nio. « t ♦k u. ^" "^bit or pickled 

immovable. ^' *""* ^^** ^^ PoMte and 

friends. She ^d ^^^\rZ )^ *° ^ ^** °'^ 
him. but as they all ^rked^ti^a *T J^^"^ *P^ ''^'" 
sible to have thL alZ She Tfch^' ^^' '* ^ ™P°^" 

• AdaNuttall.andthar^hdpS^tftSe'5°'*^^^ 
tain her friend taught IwrtrVff'.^! ^f"^ *° ««ter. 

had been a s%ht aTLf^e.'Lf Xt Sl^cT' '* 
wondering all the tim*. ,!,,«•«„ i ^ , *"* Cntenon, 
pounds that die LiihlT5 ^""*,7hether the five 

you neverto^ ^tii^U^^oST ""fi^ ^°"^^' " '<>' 
11.0 rriterion^^^'\^°^;^^h thmgs on the bUl." 

and it was sncceS^i^''^^.^J^^f^ "^ <=W. 

rippish. careful, and rather r2i«ll "^^l^^ t<««ther 

like this by a fellow U^S'nVh* k ^ "^^^^ained 

another woman it iiioUed^o- ?^ ' *"** "^^^ ^"'^ 
^^^ nian implied more than money, it implied 

anott'^rol ;he"k^ ^ss'^"^ ^^^^ ^^^ ^^^ 

veiy anxious to be ef vTnf .^ ..^'^•- ^^^ ^^« ^oth 

it ^as a little ^'St' to ' X^'^hlt ^T' ^^^^ 

have been managed in the Park hT f^' J* ""^ht 

Squar.. in presenL of a Jaco^'d^"ti" "^^k"^^^ 

rent of a hundred a year Tl^nL^^ ^ *° °^^°^ 

easier by Sue havi,?g^T5rf "^ "°* "^^^^ '""•^^ 

saying. " WeU. ^u^^Xn^er l^"^'*'^" *" ^^ ^y 

was not bosti^sh -nif^^ • ^°^ ^^^^ f«lt this 

very tonguS^^d ^^^.^^ ^o^^^^^^^^^ 

^r ^^^o^ennor^"" -^ 

- -iovely, o.^r:^S".^*S.-^:^^-^^^ 



HESITATION j^ 

i^^h'l^t?^* *^ * *'^^' ^^ *^*' *^ »n§J« of which 
^ the th«e young ..^omen. compeUed th^rTall to 4?nk 
port, he had a wild idea that if he could maJ fh^ 
frunk it might be easier, and he ^ TtnLSSr no^S 

weU. for M^ Thorpe became much more rippish tlu^ 
Ada and told a long story about the goingsTat th2 
numcure ^our Sue was rather takef ^^h "hi" „ew 
np and asked when she could see her again. 

A^ Th"^' "i"^ ^fi ^^'T*' " ^^**-th the ^ate-th ?» 
Ada and Sue laughed abundantly and Miss Thon^ 
encouraged when a httle later Huncote asked W. aW^ 
of travel, whether she liked Brighton, replied : ^ ^ 
I should shay sho." 

.u^i^T^ ^^ry. somehow, when the effects of the port 
8ub.,Hcu He left them to themselves, but even tC 
cmversation stumbled. Miss Nuttall aid Mis^ -^o™ 
try as they might to carry it off with the air of girbTo 
were used to manicuring the aristocracy, could not J^etlnd 
that they were used to this sort of thing ^ 

Sr - mL; -' h' r "'i °' 't '^ '^' ^^^^ have caSS 
her Mam, but somehow this was quite as bad rwmil! 

Sue feu friendless, as if she had lost t^^^^ ^^i 

§2 

mtroauced a kitten. Three months later it had develoned 
mto a young but athletic cat. One day thr«^t ^2^ 

s^'^'' '7'^'t' ^r "^°^* °^ thTgll^ on^lTu^^ 
^t i!^ ilS^^' ^^S^^h""^ ^*h various pots of jam. vZ 

v^fM^the lady of the house to look after the glass. She 

J»rm<^ Sara^ovsky was very particular about her 
ss. mam. Then for a moment Rhoda fdt tempted 



iU 






300 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



to be hmnan and to tell her mistress where to go to ; but 
Rhoda was too well trained a servant ; her humanity 
flickered and went out. 

" All right," said Sue, airily, " I'U order some to-day, 
and while I'm about it I'll get some jam. Mr. Huncote 
says he's tired of raspberry and currant ; too many pips 
in it." 

The athletic cat had, it seemed, broken so many of the 
tumblers, actually nine out of twelve, that Sue did not 
trouble to take one as a specimen. She thought she 
would just buy what she fancied. 

Two days later Roger held up in his hand a large, 
heavy tiunbler. 

" Hallo I " he said. " These aren't our usual tumblers, 
are they ? " 

" No," said Sue, unconscious of offence, " the cat t»x>ke 
most of those, so I had to get some new ones." 

Huncote was not a man to whom the delicacies of glass 
or linen meant much unless they were absent, and there 
was something decidedly wrong in this massive glass, 
thick, greyish, machine-moulded, with a dreadful squidgy 
twirl at the bottom where the glass had come off the mould. 

" They were only threepence-ha'penny," said Sue. " It's 
wonderful how cheap they make these things nowadays." 

He did not say anytning, but when next morning he 
precipitately put down a spoonful of strawberry jam that 
seemed at the same time to be sticky, musty, and care- 
fully kept together with pink glue, he lost his temper. 

He was unjust ; he did not understand whence came the 
impulse to pay threepence-ha'penny for tumblere or to 
buy jam at fourpence a pound, cheap jam, jam which was 
advertised everywhere, jam made in vats, out of turnips, 
glucose, and stalks. He did not understand that she 
could not spend because she had never spent, that if she 
was to be natural she must still buy what the poor bought ; 
when a little later he understood, in his folly he wished 
•he had flung herself vampire-like upon the luxuries of 



HESITATION 



301 



her new class. Ife would not have liked it either if she 
had, but his was a love relation and not made to be satis- 
fied. He could not gauge the depth of Sue's fear, of her 
hesitaticm before silver coins, nor the humility still mote 
cruel that still made her pass the shops in Piccadilly and 
tell herself, if she thought at all, that their wares were 
not for the likes of her. 

§3 

" You know," said Huncote, " it was awfully decent of 
you to help Sue." 

" Not at all," said Theresa, with something false in her 
voice. " I rather liked it ; she's sweet. There's something 
so fresh and ingenuous about her ; and something humble 
which hurts one sometimes, as if she didn't know how sweet 
she was." 

" Yes,' said Huncote, and paused. It was embarrassing, 
this praise. If he had been a man of the world he would 
have suspected Theresa of wanting to slay a rival by 
sickening the rival's lover from love into gratitude. But 
had Himcote been a man of the world he would have been 
wrong, for Theresa was sincere, and nothing is so deceptive 
as that. For a long time he said nothing, but just smoked 
Ml, lighting another cigarette from the stump of the one 
he had just finished. He disturbed Theresa; he was 
becoming a chain smoker ; that was new, and the new 
always disquieted her. Still, she hesitated to grow per- 
sonal. 

" I haven't been very well," she said. " I must go away 
soon." 

His face suddenly expressed concern. 

" Not well ? " he said. That was his voice speaking, 
but behind the voice something inside his heart whis- 
pered : " Going away 1 " 

And Theresa, so remote were they both just then, thrilled 
at his voice, as if she heard only the unspoken whisper. 

" Not for very long," she said, reassuringly, " just for 



.. I : ■ - 



ill 



:■•'!] 
'in 



3oa 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



^:?- 



two or three weeks into the countiy. I always feel washed 
out in the spring." 

He looked at her more closely : indeed she did look pale, 
and there was a faint purple zone round her eyes that made 
them deeper and more humid. 
" Are you going to friends ? " he asked. 
* No, I shall go somewhere alone ; I might take Eliza- 
beth to bully me and tuck me up." 

" Because I was thinking we might be going away for a 
while. I don't know where." 

He did not, for he had only just thought of it, and was 
not aware that he had just thought of it. 

She understood but did not respond. She had borne 
It aU very well so far, though she had begun to feel that 
she cared for him more as she grew more certain of having 
lost him. No, she could not bear that. She thought of 
Sue, and for a moment hated her ; then she despised her- 
self for hating the guiltless ; also for desiring one who 
did not desuie her. She told herself that she must not go 
on with this conversation, that it was too much for her, 
would make her say more than she meant, might make 
her say all she meant, which would be far too much. She 
felt her hands clench ; she looked at them, saw the knuckles 
redden, and thought: "That makes my hands ugly; 
weU, they ought to be ugly to him ; so much the better.'' 
And, as she so thought, found herself woman, desirous of 
attracting, and unclenched her hands, let them fall, white 
and long-fingered like sprays of fern. She thought : " I 
must not speak to hun," and murmured : " But you won't 
miss me ! " Before he could reply she rescued herself and 
added : " Sue's all right now." 

He had not understood ; he was too young to have a 

quick ear for the whispers of love ; as yet, he could only 

hear love when it beUowed, and he thought of Sue with a 

faint feeling of disloyalty. 

" Sue ? Yes, oh yes. Oh, it's quite all right." 

He was lying, and they both knew it. They stared 



I 



m 



I 



HESITATION 303 

into each other's eyes, sorrowful, and as if determined to 
hide their mutual lie. 

-Only." he went on. "it's . . . it's diflficult. I can't 
explam. . . I expected it to be difficult. . If s 

all so new to her . . . little things." 

Theresa, felt her heart grow narrow ; she did not know 
but she had a vision of little things, intonations, errors of 
tact, httle thmgs so big, and he would not tell her • she 
knew he would not teU her. he would be too loyal ' She 
wished he would tell her if only to have Ms confidence, and 
yet she knew she would hate him if he told her. for rivine 
Sue away. He went on : «> & 

" I don't know what I mean. Theresa, but it's so comph- 
cated. taking somebody out of one life and pushing her 
into another. It's not just changing over from cotton 
gloves into kid. One wants to change the hand as well 
as the glove." 

" Roger 1 You don't want to change the hand I ' 
" No. of course not. that's a figure of speech. Only it 
aU seems so difficult because. . . . WeU. you see. there 
1 am m the Settlement, and then I come back. ... I 
thought . . . women had their own friends, and when 
I came home . . . there'd be somebody there. You 
see what I mean ? " 

Theresa laughed. "Sultan I You want to come home 
and find the dancing girls waiting for you." 
^ It's not that ; I hardly know what I mean.' 
" I do." said Theresa ; " you want the ordinary house- 
hold, with ' At home ' cards stuck into your looking-glass 
and a httle dinner waiting for you. with the menu written 
m French. After dinner, when you and the other men 
have had enough port and. if tradition does not Ue, improper 
stones, you want to come into the drawing-room and find 
four nice women, excellently gowned, with whom you'll dis- 
cuss the play, the weather, the country, whom you'U teU 
what they ought to think about politic^ whom you'U 
put right on any subject except dress ; before dress you'U 






'If 

u 






304 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



assume a humorous attitude, half-disdainful, half-worship- 
pmg. At five minutes to eleven the firet couple wiU say- 
•We reaUy must go; thank you so much . . '• 
" Don't !" cried Hunoote. 
But Theresa was merciless. 

" You're like aU men. you expect marriage to be the 
great solution, to be wafted by the registrar's wand into a 
world where everything-games. society, household, art 
sick-nursmg. travel bureau— wiU be available for you when' 
you press a button. Or, better still, where everythinij 
works so smoothly that you only have to tell your wife 
to press the button. It's not a woman a man ought to 
marry, it's William Whiteley's." 

He did not reply for a moment ; he did not seem to mind 
toe onslaught, and said; "I'm not thinking of aU that 
The main thing's love." 6 «* «*" wax. 

" Well," said Theresa, in a voice suddenly hard. " haven't 
you . . . isn't . ^ ." 

" Oh. yes," he said, and his voice was impatient. " Only 
somehow . . . one's always alone. It's so difficult for 
her. being used to what she is. She had one or two of her 
fnends the other night ... she hked that, but 
" But you didn't ? " 
He grew aggressive. 
" I asked them to come myself." 
She saw that she had been tactiess, and swerved. " But 
yom- own,* she said. 

" We've had an At Home ; you know, for you came ; that 
wasaUnght. Only one gets so lost among a lot of people. 
It s somethmg else, not what they call society, but a feeling 
. . . Oh, how shaU I put it ? . . . that one know 
a few people who hke one. and who don't criticise one 
only . . ." He did not like to finish the sentence, and 
to say, " only they do criticise my wife." 
She unda:stood. 

" Aren't you a little impatient ? " she said. She felt so 
much okier than he. She remembered that At Home : 



HESITATION 



W 



yes. Sue had behaved aU right there. She had been like 
an exated child with shining eyes, and looked channing. 
She Md not said much, and only at the very end hadste 
warmed up and talked. Pferhaps she had ta^ toomuc£ 
for There^ remembered that she had heard her say to a 
young soldier who was paying her a compliment : " Why 

I^'^ ♦rS.^ ", ^' "^^ *^ ^'^' fo^ that phrase had 
t^Tfl ^ ^'^* " ^' ^^ Nuttall school^t ^ 
smile faded for Hunoote had thrown away that eternal 
cigarette and rested his head upon one hand, half^iding 
his face. She leaot forward. "ou-uiuiug 

"Roger ! " she said. " Do be a little patient, do try to 
undei^tand. Yes. I V y; it isn't easy to you.^ryou 
knew It wouldn't be. btir. I know you can cto it. You^^ 

whL^ ^vJ^^ i°' ^'^' ^"°"Sh and she'll become just 
wi^t you hke^ and everything will become just what you 
J^e Tiyl Help her a little. If she can't mike for you Uie 

f^ ^^?," "^S' 'J'"": y^" "^'^^ "^ »t • yo« must enter- 
tam a little Don't throw yourselves like that upon each 

vl,,""' .^- "^^ ^ ^"^^"^ """^y at each other until 
you see nothing except what's wrong." 

He looked at her sideways, still unhappy 

"D'you think I could?" he said. "D'yon think I'd 
know how? Oh. I feel a beast for talking Uke uT- 

Theresa put her hand upon his arm. 

" Don't be afraid." she said. « it's only fear makes you 
weak, and only weakness makes you unhappy. B^ a 

It uLr'?/'^'^^ *° ^^'' ^' ^°'^^ ^^ ^t it ^y what 
W^ I _ =^7"y^ to eternity; why not leam 
fw .. ?^ '"^^'" y^"^ ^^t as you walk upon a road 
that need not after all be so dusty ? " 

He did not reply for a long time, and then her optimism, 
her cert^ty of hmi. filled him with a new ^Zt. 
He turned, he gnpped her hand ; he Hked to feel it long 
and rather hard, and he looked into the dark eves that 
seemed so tender. ^ *^t 

" You're the best of friends." he sj 






HI 



20 



huskily. 



flj 



3P6 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

She pre^ his hand, and there was a bitterness in her 
as If she fdt that she had parted him stiU more from 
her by her kmdness in his need. Never before had she 
loved but often she had been near love, and she guessed 
what there was in it of hardness, almost of cruelty of 
desue to conquer ; she knew that the path to lovi is 
not the path of roses of which she spoke, but a path of 
rc«es and thorns. And so it hurt her abominably that 
between her and Roger Huncote it should all be so easy 
and so sweet. • 

He felt different when alone. He had laughed before 
he went, but now in the street, where night had faUen as 
a screen of black velvet swathed in mists that gleamed as 
a peacock sfeathers. he was again confined, and around the 
world looked awkwardly. 

T^ere was qmte a group upon his dooretep; outside 
stood a van. and m the front garden a crate from which 
straw had «atter«i. A Uttie way back in the hall stood 
Sue. rather flushed, her arms akimbo, as if she were holding 
tiie pass agamst the carter and his mate who fiUed the 
doorway with a menacing air. Just behind Sue he could 
see the helpleis black-and-white hovering of Rhoda 
evidently tryiz, to reconcile diplomatic intervention with 
tie tradition^ .; .: obtrusive parlourmaiding. He heard 
angry voices 

J I didn't arsk yer fer nothin' ! . . .» 

" You can 'ave yer money back if yer Uke . . " 

Then to his horror Sue's voice : " Shut yer rioise I " 

I "J^?^*^«!^.^ "^y P^* ^^ *w° "^en and nearly 
laughed for Rhoda. as if she had never heard such worck 

before, leant hmply against the waU. But he was anxious 
too, and angry. ' 

"What's this? "he asked. « What does aU this mean ? » 
There was a babble of explanation. 

«S^^^??^.'*^,'*^*'"«^'^^ ye* i gave them . . .» 
We didnt arek the lady fer nothin'. sir; only when 
we bnngs m a chest as weighs a 'undredweight 



HESITATION 



307 



* Took us 'arf an hour to unpack, sir." 
"But . . . " said Huncote. 
Sue seized him by the arm. 
" Roger ! I only had twopence ! " 
no'Jw^'^sh*" ^"^^ ^g^ ••" We didn't arsk the lady fer 

The facts began to sort themselves out. A laree oak 
chest they had bought a few days before had ^ved. 
.A ""^"J^ ^packed it, taken it up to the first floor 
and moved the furniture about to make room for it. Then 
bue had given them twopence to share. But while he 

vS *°g®***®^ *^« ""ow continued, and Rhoda inter- 

if7bL^'^hT'" *' "''^^"'' " " ' ^^^ *'^™ ^ ^^^^ 

Sue grew scarlet at this pubUc insult. 

"Who told you to interfere? I don't want any of 
your hp" ^ 

"Sue I- cried Roger, horrified. Then, turning to the 
men, he gave them two shillings. The door closed, and 
with magical skill Rhoda disappeared. 

" Sue ! How could you ? " 
^She was still flushed, and still kept her hands upon her 

"How could I what ? Don't see what I've done " 
He was impatient. 

« Sue, you must know twopence wasn't enough." 
They ought to be jolly glad to get twopence ; might 
ha,ye given them nothin* if I liked." • s •• 

" It would have been better if you had." 
"Twopence is twopence." said Sue, and it hurt him to 
leel that to her twopence was still honibly twopence. 

Look here." he said, "you've got to understand 
you ve got to tip properly or not at all." 

Sue's mouth grew tight, and she looked at him. hostUe 
from under her brows : " Got to understand ?" she said. 
1 es. 



liMl 

m 

i-r 






3o8 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



" I s'pose you think I don't understand anything ; not 
good enough for you." 

" Sue, dear." He took her arm, but she shook him off 
angrily. At that he lost his temper. "For Heaven's 
sake, don't stand like that, with you hands on your hips, 
you look like a wash— . . ." 

Sue's hands fell ; she stood away from him, suddenly 
Mvid. "Oh," she said, "like a washerwoman. Is that 
what you were going to say ? " He was frightened by 
the intensity of the low voice. " Like a washerwoman I " 
she repeated. 

She turned and ran up the stairs, and it was cruel, 
it was tearing to hear her cry as she went. 

It was a terrible evening, and Sue got her first lesson 
in the manners and customs of the stoical upper ten by 
being curtly told to dress and come down to dinner as 
usual. They ate very little, and said nothing at all; 
they sat, he determined and feeling as if frozen stiff, she 
rather withdrawn in her chair, sullen, determined not 
to look at him, making bread-pills, and staring before her. 
It maddened him to see her make bread-pills. They ended 
their dinner without a word, under Rhoda's icy chairman- 
ship. 

They tried to talk a little in the evening, of what could 
be done for Perce, who, it seemed, did not like the new 
office. But that was a failure, it was not an abundant 
topic. Roger read out a few scraps from the evening paper ; 
he nearly asked her whether she would like to go to " The 
Sunshine Girl," but stopped just in time, determined not 
to make advances. Towards the end of the evening he 
wanted to make advances, he felt that however right he 
might have been at bottom, he had lost control, he had 
been unkind ; it hurt him dreadfully to see his dark girl 
who could be so tender, hke this—silent, with downcast 
eyes and a heavy mouth, abominably dvil, as if determined 
to show him she could be as civil as he. They were at 
the acutest point of conflict when little is said, when 



HESITATION 



309 



nothing is conceded, when there is no promise that after 
anger will come peace, when between two people there 
is just a black blanket of difference. 

At half-past nine, with merely a " good-night." she went 
to bed. He hesitated as he opened the door. Never 
before had she gone to bed without kissing him. He felt 
he ought to kiss her, also that he wanted to, and yet that 
he ought not to want to, still more, perhaps, that if he 
were really fine he ought to kiss her in spite of what she 
was. But the emotion was too complex, and before it 
came to a solution the door dosed behind the stately 
sailing past of her sturdy figure, with the high-heW head 
that suggested insult and injury. He went out for a very 
long walk right round the Gardens and Hyde Park ; he 
wanted to tire himself out, and he wanted to think, to 
try to look into the future a little. He did not succeed ; 
facts only came to him, and of facts only could he think 
again and again ... of Sue, telling Rhoda that she 
wanted none of her lip. But towards the end, as he came 
down Holland Walk that was dark and full of the peace 
of a country lane, a walk where there were benches 
snugly hidden and friendly darknesses from which came 
the soft murmurs of lovere, the hardness of him melted. 
He had been hasty, he had been unjust. He was full ol 
pity far himself, full of pity for her, full of fear for their 
joint lives, hardly hopeful that he couW make of them, 
even by patience, even by skill, what Theresa had promised.' 
StiU. as he put the latchkey into the k)ck he thought : 
" There it is, we must try." 

The house was dark, and he went softly up to his bed- 
room. Outside Sue's he paused ior a moment ; he could 
hear nothing. He ighed ; it was his haWt every ni^t 
to go to her, to hold ner to him for a while, perhaps without 
speaking, feeling closer to her in the darkness and in the 
silence when they were just man and woman, when no 
class, no custom, nothing intervened to spoil the tenderness 
of their clasp. But not to-night ; he feh he conkl not 



11 



310 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



i 

V' 

k 

hi 



to-night; to do such a thing after such events would 
have spoiled aU the other beautiful moments by making 
the exquisite communion into a daily convention. 

So he went into his bedroom, and slowly undressed. 
But m his pyjamas again he thought : " I've been unjust. 
Perhaps she s awake, thinking just that. No. she would 
not^thmk I d been unjust, she'd think I'd been hard on 
her. It huit him to think that. " After aU. one of us 
must make advances; why should it be she ? If I'm 
any use it ought to be I." 

He slipped on his dressing-gown, very softly opened the 
door. His plan was typical of him: if she was asleep 
he mtended to sit by her bedside, holding her hand untS 
the early mommg ; when she awoke she would see him 
and understand. He was still Cardinal Quixote, finding 
romance m this idea of a lover remoreefuUy watchine bv 
Ae bedside of his beloved. But when he opened the 
door, he found that she was not asleep ; he could see her 
head outlined against the piUow. a great mass of hair. 
It wrung his heart, for she was lying on her face, clasping 
the piUow, and the room was aU filled with a dreadfiS 
little choked whimpering that came to him muffled by the 
pillow. He ran to the bed, seized her roughly in his 
arms and turned her to him. She would not come at firet • 
she clung to the pillow in which still were stifled her sobs' 
but at last she seemed to grow weak, and he turned her 
to him. holding her close. As the pillow feU her sobs 

^'^ 11°^^; 5^ "T T^^ ^^ ^ ^^y' ^th her 
mouth aU distorted ; she shook against his breast. 

My darling." he murmured into her hair. He tried 

to say: Ive been a brute." but he could not; even in 

that minute he was not sure that he had been unjust. 

radS ^^'^ ^^ ^^ ^^' ^^^^^^ ^^*' 

She held him close with both hands, content and at 
rest, or peitaps exhausted. He bent to kiss her wet face • 
she opened her eyes and drew back. 



HESITATION 



3" 



"Oh," she muitnured, "I ain't good enough for you. 
I know I ain't." 

The humility and the sweetness of her under the 
untrammeUed grief melted him. He did not at all 
understand how exasperated and unhappy she had been, 
how exiled, how lost among people who were not hers, with 
strange manners and hostile customs ; he knew only that 
she was sorry, that both had been hasty, cruel, rhildish. 

" My darling ! " he said again, and kissed her with the 
dull certainty of the male who believes that with a kiss 
he can heal any woman's ilb. 

§4 

Mrs. Groby was flustered and rather hot. Her daughter 
and her son-in-law could not cope with her indignation. 
Even her bonnet was excited. 

" Never heered of such a thing. Set me down there in 
the middle of the road and said : ' You follow yer nose, 
there's plenty of it,' an' off 'e goes 1 " She fanned herself 
violently with the Daily Mirror, and blew. 

" But, mother, you ought to know your way by now," 
said Sue. 

Mrs. Groby bridled as she had been taught to do by her 
mother in old Sussex days. 

" Well, I don't need you to teach me, miss. And that's 
not the worst of it. I put it to you, Roger. I got inter 
th' Archway 'bus as usual, and I sa3rs to 'im : ' Yer put me 
down at Pembroke Square, young man 1 ' just as I'd been 
told. I thort there was somethin' wrong, I did ; I went 
wand'iin' round and round all sorts o' places called Pern- 
bridge something." Huncote laughed. " You may laugh ; 
'adn't been 'ere more'n once, and then" — ^her tone grew 
serious — " only w'en you brort me in a taxi-cab." 

" What did you do ? " asked Huncote, amused. 

"I got inter the nex' 'bus. Dunno w'ere they git 
their conductors from ; 'ave 'em made to order, I ^ould 
think. W'en I told 'im, d'yer know wot 'e said ? " She 



3M THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



ll 



u 



'E said : 'You should 



flushed. " ZJoyer know wot 'e said? 
give up the drink, mother.' " 

The Huncotes laughed. 

-WcU. have a drink of tea." said Roger "and Hrm'f 
think any more about it." ^ * 

hJ^^J^'^^^ ^^^ ^^' **«• accompanying her praises 

^^stmti'Lff?K*^''"^''"P""'"*- I" her mind 
t Z,Z T^1!^'' ^'^'"^ "^' "^^^ ^^ t- took 

^frrj^2rrti^f.e^ anun:^-- 

^^^fTtL"* ^" *^ d^wing-room balcony TS 

^cSy iS^es'^iS-V^"^^ ^^^y JtaTed'tr 
Wowsto.- ' ^^ ""^ured. "Wen the wind 

n^ *^^T1 Wn i'™^ ^^*^ ^^^ ^ the bath. 
J^ead?- *PP«» »« yer go in in the dark an' bang 

ex^Sn^LV^if ^"^Z * 8«»P o' h«r own estalilishment to 
ejTiam that she had servants to clear up the dustfmm 
tte wfadow^boxes. and that one did not ba^<^ ^ 
when there was electric light. Moreover^JT^U^ 
oonsjdetBble awe of her i>tier wto ^^ we^t^'S 
^J"^' ^*?,8^hang at the c^i^lT^e^^ 
^^ Se Z^^^'' ** *^r ^^ -hich ZZ n" 
^ that^^^^"^^^' ^^ ^ »o««of the 

^at^ W 1^ '^"*" *^' ^*' ^<i ^h«» for an 
nowat a time children are taken along the street fn thl 

5;2«;^^t Of much scolding L^^:^^ 
d«o^ed m the arran^ment something peculiarly coM- 

J^Xit it'^^e^^nSe^'* '*" ^' ^^ '^ ^^^^ 

Sm tenidly pomted out that m her bedroom there was 

^ httle space for two. -Space?- Bfo. GrS>y^S 



HESITATION 3,3 

A vision of early days when Groby was only a labourer 
and she gave birth to three children in the dngle room, 
wbch was also a kitchen, deprived her of all eJtpression 
Besides. Sue, whom this stiU embarrassed, was not an 
eloquent advocate. "Treat yer well?" asked M« 
Groby. and suddenly, before the girl could reply: "Yer 

r^tWh' '*P"^'l^b°"t the eyes. Still. tha?s nothing! 
that s the spnng. 'Ow d'yer Uke it ? " 

Sue hesitated ; she was not used to expressine strong 
emotions : " Oh. it's all right." she said. vagSST^ ^ 

Mrs. Groby laughed : « Well, if that's all yer've got ter 
say fer yerself I Is 'e fond of yer ? " * 

Sue blushed: "Don't be silly, mother; he wouWn't 
have married me if he weren't." 

ha^* ^r^H- """^^f * «^* °^y t^« as if she couM 
have said things of great significance, and then decided 
not to say them : Expect it's all right." she said. " can't 

T ?r.r, ?°* *"^^' ^ «™™"e *bo«t e«*Pt that I 

shouldn t Wee to 'ave them servants about, mysdf. sp4»' 

on yer anr» alv,-ays wantin' to be gaddin' about." Mrs. 

Groby deepiy distrusted strangere under one's rool. 

One gets used to it. mother," said Sue, very staid and 

suddenly coMoous of importance: "I wouWn't like to 

have to do the housework here myself." 

"1^'wgotnocaUtonow. Yer a lady now and don't 
^ .^ 1^ ^^* ^"^ thoughtful: -I never should 

ave thort ter see a daughter of mine Uvin' like this I 
used ter thmk. . . but there. I won't talk about 'if 
They grew silent, both of them, for Sue underatood 
that her mothers memory had fled to Bert. Mrs. Grobv 
had always thought a tot of Bert, who was earning good 
wages and could give his wife two rooms; she had beo 
\^^ apa«w about that, for she "did not believe in 
^u*en beginmng where their parents left ofL" This 
restocied mtimacy; it was as if the past linked mother 
and daughter, which the present couW not do. Sue 



showed her mother some of her clothes and 



now was not 



*«} 



,r 



314 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



rebuked. They did not look as if they would wear well, 
Mrs, Groby thought : " But still that's wot the people 
wear who are photographed in the paper." She did not 
like the filmy silk stocldngs much : 

" Like wot they wear on the stage." she said. " 'Ardly 
decent, I calls it. But there, yer know best now yer a 
lady." 

Sue did not care to show her her latest and lowest-cut 
evening frock. There was trouble enough over a lacy 
nightgown: "Yer can do wot yer like, but it's the sort 
o' thing that \' be worn by a painted Jezebel, wot the dogs 
all ate up, except 'er 'ands an' feet, as the Bible says." 

Sue was glad she had not seen the evening frock, for it 
was not only low-cut, but also so designed in the skirt 
as to expose a good deal of silk stocking. 

They stayed upstairs rather a long time When they 
came down they were at peace and more intimate, so 
much so that their intimacy endured in Roger's presence. 
News was given : Grandpa Challow was failing. It had 
been a bad year for the bees again and this seemed to 
prey upon him : 

" 'Ad a bad attack of religion, 'e 'ad ; went round the 
village singin' a song about layin' up treasure in a place 
w'ere the moth doth not rust or i,omethin'." (Mrs. Groby's 
scriptural knowledge was patchy and her quotations 
generally suggested that anything out of the Bible was 
much the same as anything else and meant nothing.) 

Huncote remembered the gentle old man with the 
sweet Siissex drawl; he would not hear of his going to 
the workhouse : 

"Give me his address," he said, "he must be looked 
after." 

Sfrs. Groby and Sue looked at him with wide admiring 
eyes as if he were Merlin, able with a word to create wealth 
and ease. To look after Grandpa Challow, together 
with all he was doing ! Mrs. Groby felt the need to render 
op accounts. 



HESITATION 



315 






Perce's gettin' on aU right." she said, « thanks to you 
^ . . Roger. (Slight effort over Christian nairt-i 
" An' n- wonder," she added, proudly, " 'e's a sharp b >y ; 
'e's keepin' the stampbook now in the office, and e^ry 
now an' then he says ter me, ' Mother,' 'e says. ' yer cao t 
tell wot temptations we 'as with all them stamps lyin' 
about,' but Lor', I can trust 'im." 
" How's Muriel ? " asked Roger. 

"Learnin' the violin," said Mrs. Groby, proudly. 
" Dunno as I quite like it either ; she 'as to practise in 
the evenm'. an' wot with that an' wot with the cats it 
diives me old man to the Red Lion, it does." She ctcw 
grave : " Still, that's edication ! " 

Other family news was given: it appeared that the 
anstocratic relative, the cook in North Audley Street, had 
taken to noticing the Grobys now : " But," said Mrs 
Groby, " that won't wash." 

There was a moment of general shrinking ; the three 
felt that this kind of metaphor had better be left alone. 

" After giving us the go-by all these years," Mrs. Groby 
went on, " she's not comin* along velvet-pawin' me. She 
says ter me, ' I only want to be good friends, I been 
so busy.' ' Oh,' I says to 'er, I says. • d'yer think I've for- 
gotten wot yer said to my Aunt Loo w'en I married 
Charlie?' That closed 'er up. It's not wot people says 
as matters, it's the things they does! 'An'some is as 
'an'some does! Yer won't go wrong if yer sticks ter 
that." 

The cousin who taught music for three pounds a week 
had, it seemed, also reappeared. The relatives wanted 
nothing material, but only the glamour of association with 
the promoted Grobys. But Mrs. Groby was keeping her- 
self to herself in the strictest way : 

"Makes me won'er sometimes 'ow some peofde 'ave 
the face. Wouldn't catch me doin' things like that, 
making uf :o people wot wasn't good enough once upon a 
tune," F^yf a ir/^ment they all thought of the strangeness 



I 



il 



' IJ 



3i6 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



of life and the variety of men and women, and Mrs. Groby 
said: "Well, well, it takes all sorts to make a world." 
Rhoda came in, whispered to Hvmcote ; he seemed dis- 
turbed : " Oh, very weU," he said, " you did quite right." 
He did not tell Sue when Mrs. Groby had gone, after 
two hours, and apologising because she had to go now, 
and must go, and really couldn't stay, that Lady Monta- 
cute had called and Rhoda had taken the responsibility 
of " not at home." Himcote administered half-a-crown, 
but at bottom he hated Rhoda; she understood, and it 
was well she understood, but how dared she understand ? 
To understand was to criticise. He realised suddenly 
that Theresa was right, that things could not go on hke 
this ; that they could not remain isolated or, alternatively, 
be hunted by one class while eluding another. One day 
the classes would clash, dislike each other, and in their 
anger turn upon the young people, leaving them lonely. 
He determined to tell her about Lady Montacute's call, but 
later. For a moment he wondered whether he woidd not 
be happier with Sue alone in the country . . , or in 
the South Sea Islands. He smiled, for Sue had read " The 
Blue Lagoon" and thought it lovely. But no, it was 
too late; they were civilised, they were people of the 
town, and like people of the town they must live. They 
must plunge into the "giddy social vortex." they must 
" entertain," they must " see life," they must afitont the 
complexities of class, the gorgeousness of society , . . 
they must ask six people to dinner. 



CHAPTER THE THIRD 

THE LAND OF DOUBT 
§1 

Sue sat at the gate-leg table, more than usuaUy embar- 
rassed by the disposal of her feet, because she was generally 
embarrassed. Before her lay a great quantity of paper 
and envelopes, and pens so constructed that the ink 
persisted in running up them. She was writing. She 
leapt to her feet, crumpled up the letter into a ball and 
flung it to the ground: "That's three," she murmured. 
She felt inclined to weep, rubbed one eyelid and inked it 
" Oh ! " she thought. " What shall I do ? What shall I 
do?" And wondered: "Perhaps it wouldn't have 
mattered. There was only one blot on that one." For a 
moment she surveyed the dining-room with an ak of 
dismay as if she were locked up, like a little giri who has 
been naughty and is writing out an impost. But there 
lay the paper and the paraphemaUa, and Chambers's 
Dictionary wide open ; there was nothing to do but to 
go on. 

So rather wearily she sat down again and ^nce more 
began: 

Dear Mrs. Forncett, 

My husband asks me to say that though I have not vet had 
the pleasure ... j «* 

She consulted the letter which Roger had given her to 
copy. Obviously "the pleasure of meeting you." Roger 
wrote rather badly, she thought. How did one spell 
" meeting " ? She thought for a moment : " One spelled 
'meat' m ' " " 



I 



-t. Stm, it didn't look like an ' a 



317 



quite. 



318 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



She looked it up in the dictionary, and then for a moment 
wondered why "meat" should be spelt m-e-a-t, and 
"to meet" m-e-e-t. Seemed silly like. Still, there it 
was in print and there you were. 
So she wrote : 



... of meeting you. 
waiving formality . . . 



He thinks you will not mind my 



She did not pause to consider once more what Roger 
meant by waving formality about ; she had given that up. 
She finished the letter to Mrs. Fomcett. There was no 
blot. She held it away from her rather proudly, this 
curious combination of good stiff paper and round hand- 
writing with a steady, if insidious, slope to the left. She 
wondered why Roger could not have written the letters 
himself; he did those things so easily and she thought 
how wonderfully clever he was. But he had said that 
the hostess must do that, and, of course, he knew best. 
So she began again : she asked Mr. Churton ; she asked 
Mr. and Mrs. Lucien Cadoresse, a little more easily, because 
she had met Mrs. Cadoresse, She had been tempted to 
keep Theresa until the last, because that would be easy, 
and perhaps Theresa would not mind a blot, but a sort of 
Puritanism made her choose the harder way. And so 
you will imagine her, as for a time the curtain falls, a small 
sturdy figure lost in a room too tidy, fettered in a gown 
too tight, the tip of its tongue protruding, swaying a little 
as it writes : 

Dear Mrs. Cadoresse, 

My husband and I will be very pleased . . . 

with an air of determination in wiiich there is some awe 
and a Uttle pain. . . . 

§2 

Never so well as that evening had Sue seen Sir Lucius, 
Sir R. His new evening clothes had so manifestly been 
made for him. He had come in to see her while she 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 319 

dressed and looked too wonderful to kiss. That tie and 
waistcoat so white, why. one dared not even blow on them. 
Nor had he stayed, for Rhoda was watchful and reUable. 
He went down into the dining-room that looked official, 
with the table entirely obstructed with everything that 
one wants for dinner and so many things that one does 
not. It looked solemn Uke that, empty, with the chairs 
waitmg and the napery shining under the Ught. the big 
bowl of violets and the crowding pepper and mustard 
pots. Ii looked so complex, the dumb waiter with its 
fiUed decanters and. it seemed, the endless stores of knives 
and forks, the concealed bottles and jugs and jars 

Yes, it looked aU right ; Ethel was no fool. He had 

had hot consultations with Ethel and Mrs. Beeton. 

Between them and Mrs. Beeton they had bought enough 

cream for a regiment. They had dealt with the quantities 

of Mrs. Beeton in her famous gallon and hundredweight 

style. They had wavered over sahnon trout, quarrelled 

over larks and quails. Of course, as this happened in 

Pembroke Square, Kensington, saddle of mutton slunk in. 

And the imported waitress had departed the day before 

to bury a relative, whUe the substitute seemed dangerous : 

the door to the basement was open and he could hear her 

breaking below. Yes, it looked all right, but there were 

a few Uttle things he missed, not that he had ever noticed 

them before: salted almonds and crystallised violets. 

He felt their absence as one might feel the absence of 

one's tie : it does not keep one warm, but it is there. Yes, 

he had forgotten crystallised violets. It was too late 

now. Still, it would not matter; Fomcett was always 

thinking of something else, and Mrs. Fomcett talked too 

much to have time to eat. 

But it was a nuisance about Cadoresse, though ; he was 
such a priceless nut. It might be aU right, for Cadoresse 
had advised him about port, having decided, when he 
naturaUsed, to become a connoisseur of port. He sighed 
and vaguely thought : " I wish it was a quarter past 









320 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



deven ! " But as it was then only a quarter to eig^t he 
went up to inspect the drawing-room. It looked very 
much like the ordinary kind of drawing-room, chintzy, all 
that. It lacked scxnething, though, he thought ; he did 
not fancy the flowers much. There were narcissi and 
jonquils, and a big bowl full of hyacinths. It struck him 
vaguely that he would have liked more, that somehow 
all this lacked fulness. Yes, there were not enough 
flowers. Confound it ! Why hadn't he done them him- 
self ? Wlty hadn't Ethel known better ? For a moment 
he remained blaming Ethel and Si:e, unable to understand 
the class of Ethel . . . and Sue, their inability to 
buy things which did not last, that merely pass, making 
grace. He remained for a long time warming himself, and 
thinking vaguely th^-t it was rather comj^cated all this : 
very necessary, of course, and amusing. Still, still . . . 
Then his senses became active, for through the house 
echoed the whirr of the bell : first guest. 

§3 

It was only eighteen steps from the hall to the dining- 
room, but it was a very long time. R(^er had leisure to 
think of the funny little battle he had had with Sue ovei- 
this dinner, a struggle where she gave way and yet resisted 
all the time, like a child that has a pain inside and believes 
the medicine will do it good, yet turns away from it 
because it is nasty. It was all so new to her, so different, 
this sort of thing. Her tradition laid down that one did 
not entertain strangers. Now and then one had one's 
relatives in, and perhaps one intimate, preferably engaged 
to a member of the family ; this happened strictly at 
Christmas or when there was a wedding or a funeral in 
the family ; a birthday provided a reason only if it was 
the birthday of a grandfather or a grandmother, something 
ofiicial. The few visitors she had been allowed to meet 
frightened her because she suspected them : what did they 
want, rushing into the house like that ? And the loose way 



' M 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 321 

in which they asked her to go and see them, people she 
did not know, shocked her. Of course, it was all right ; 
it was fast, rakish, Ada Nnttallish, only it took some get- 
ting used to. He did not understand, and she could not 
explain, so they confronted each other full of narrow 
determinations and dull obstinacies, erecting barriers 
where they wanted to buUd bridges, unable to see each 
other's point of view because they were not conscious 
of their own. They were young, not deUdously but 
deplorably. They were too young to be ready to give 
each other a chance to grow up. 

But the door opened and Sue came in, a httle breathless : 
he just had a glimpse of her in the audacious gown that 
Mrs. Groby had not been allowed to see. She wore the 
draped evening frock of the day, made mainly of cream 
ninon, with a charmeuse underskirt, cream also, thinly 
striped with orange; the hips were draped in orange 
chiffon, \vhich ran up under the corselet and repeated itself 
in touches under the short sleeves that hardly veiled the 
sturdy arms. She was horribly conscious of her body 
that rught, for never before, even in summer time, had 
she ghmpsed her own upper arm when clad. And she 
shrank a httle, contractiiig her chest, because the orange 
and gold band, which the Russian ballet had ins^ared, lay 
so perilously low across her breast. The artistic feehiig of 
that year, so curiously compounded of Victorian sedate- 
ness and Tartar fantasy, was in her little black shoes and 
cream stockings, with which clashed buckles of orange 
Russian enamel. It was Theresa's work, and as Sue came 
in smiling, a httle flushed, her face like a very dark rose 
under her heavy hair, she was charming, for she was 
Southern and yet had no boldness. Yes, Theresa had done 
her work well, except . . . He f dt a discomfort he 
could not analyse, something wrong. But the door at 
once opened before Mr. and Vis. Fomcett Introductions. 
A painful moment, for Sue said : " Pleased to meet you I " 
But Mrs. Fomcett was dther a woman of the workl or had 



'J 
ffl 



I 

l.'l: I 



32a 



THE STRANGERS* WEDDING 



not heard, for she began to talk while Sue replied. Roger 
found himself having with Fomcett his usual conversation, 
which was notliing much, as Fomcett never spoke unle^ 
greatly provoked. But it did not matter; as Roger 
searched his brain for something to say about painting, 
which was supposed to be Fomcett's abject, he could hear 
Mrs. Fomcett raising an agreeably social disturbance : 

" What a pretty room I I love chintzes, don't you ? 
They make a room so bright, don't you think so ? I'm so 
glad those black cretonnes with green leaves didn't catch 
on. Of course, it's all right in a large room. You face 
west, don't you ? So, of course, you get the afternoon 
sun ; so nice at tea, don't you think ? " 

Sue said " Yes," but it did not matter, for Mrs. Fomcett 
added rather unexpectedly : " I wonder when we shall get 
lid of this dreadful Government ? " 

Fomcett had at last managed to get out a question : 
Whether Roger didn't find the spring very trying ? Roger 
said " Very," and a little later, as Fomcett went on with 
the subject, replied to the same question, " Not at all." 
His state of mind was rather complicated, for he was 
thinking at the same time of what to say to Fomcett, 
whose acqxiaintance he had slid into when the painter 
was at work for fun on scenery to be used in a Settlement 
performance, and of what was wrong with Sue. She had 
tumed away from him and sat on the sofa, completely 
blockaded by Mrs. Fomcett, whose agitated mouth was 
deUvering upon her hostess a perfect bombardment. He 
saw her neck, and for a second thought it beautiful. Then 
he had a curious sensation for which he could not find a 
word. Or was it the wrong word ? something like 
" bedizenment." Then Theresa came in, which compli- 
cated the situation. He was frankly happy to see her, 
and was conscious of a difference between her and the two 
women. There was something elusive about the long, 
Supple figure. Very thin,, very long-armed, very white in 
a black silk gown vathout a waist, touched in unexpected 






THE LAND OF DOUBT 



333 



Ijaccs with little rosettes of red and sUver. It was strange 
that gown with the rose^ ces at the breast, and those two 
others placed at the knees. She looked of this world and 
of another, Uke a saint with a sense of humour. Sue had 
not risen when she came in, and that irritated him. So 
he went to Theresa, rather effusive, feeling awkward after- 
wards, as if he had heU just a second too long t^e sliu 
rather hard hand. And Sue seemed to have noticed too! 
for the first time there was in her voice something cold 
famtly hostUe, and yet Theresa smiled her own smfle! 
frank and just a httle tortured. The Cadoresses were 
announced. They. too. were new acquaintances, for Lucien 
Cadoresse. once a Frenchman and now violently natmaUsed 
had for a while haunted St. Panwich. intending to become 
Its Liberal member of Parliament or its Conservative one 
whichever was the more difficult. He had created such 
uuMsmess in the bosom of Piatt by threatening to run 
Labour and spUt the Radical vote, that Huncote grew 
dehghted with him. He was thirty-two. a shipo^er. 
rather nch. and bound to be richer; the combination of 
his acqmred EngUsh weightiness with his irresistible 
French mischievousness amused Huncote. Those two 
came in as if announced by muted trumpets, for Cadoresse 
wuld not travel without trumpets ; but twelve yep-s of 
England had taught him to liave them muted. He came 
m, very dark, very moulded in very new clothes, his 
trousers pulled rather high so as to expose his passionate 
black-and-white socks. He did not bow. he said " Good 
evening" like an automaton. His rcoustache. once 
luxuriant, had suffered the military crop of the English 
officer. And little Mrs. Cadoresse. four years a matron 
yet still a bnde. so white, so wondering blue eyed so 
flaxen-crowned, followed him, smihng and hesitant as if 
always she had followed. 

The room was full of chatter now. for Jklrs. Cadoresse 
sw^t and shy. had instinctively taken up Fomcett becaus^ 
he looked so Spanishly dark, so lonely and unhappy as if 






i| 



> I 

< 1 



334 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



he wiated somebody to talk to him. Roger was reminded 
(rf a picture that Sae admired : a dark young Italian beod« 
ing in a garden over a iair girl ; it was called. " First Words 
(rf Love." Theresa was smiling at i!rs. Fomcett in what 
Mrs. Fomoett probably thought was a C(mlial way. Roger 
knew that she was very much tickled. And Cadoresse, 
emphasising his air of English languor, siood behind the 
sofa talking to Sue, k)oking at her so steadily with eyes 
at once fiery and ookL that she felt awkward. Sue looked 
at hinr. sideways now and then ; she vaguely felt that he 
undentood her. Indeed he asked: "Ever go to the 
pictures, Mrs. Hnnoote? No? Oh, I'm dead nuts on 
them." She could hardly make it out, the i^anginess, the 
head voice of the gentleman, and the taste which was so 
subtly her own. She did not realise that this wmnen's 
man had at once gauged her, assumed her tastes to jdease 
her ; nor did she see the contrast as, Therc:>a speaking 
to him, he remarked: "Culnsm? Merely a normal 
reaction from Futurism, from the exaggerated worship 
of movement . . ." 

But Roger was still uneasy. It was the three women 
helped him to understand at last. While Churton, who 
had just come in, with a face that should have compelled 
him to turn his collar front \o back, asked him what he had 
been doing, and made him realise that during the last six 
months he had had very little to do with the Settlement, 
his thoughts took form. They ran on a douUe line. He 
realised a sort of backsliding in his activities. He had 
neglected the Settlement, had done other things : walked 
about, read novels, gone more often to the dub, even idayed 
bridge in the afternoon. But much more, while Churton 
tried to approve of conduct that he blamed, Roger looked 
at the three women and then at Sue. They seemed so 
severe by the side of his bird of paradise — ^Mrs. Fwncett 
with her tvro or three lings and a sin^e diamond as 
pendant ; Theresa wearing but one jewel, a heavy gold 
ring with a green scarab; and little Mrs. C&donsse, so 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 



3*5 



virginal with only her wedding-ring and^a half-hoop, and 
round her slender neck a single row of smaU pearls. He 
had not felt it long before the others felt it too. and some- 
how fate was unkind to Sue, for Churton called to Fonicett 
across the room to settle some difference between him and 
Huncote as to the design of the new frescoes in the lectuie- 
hall. For a moment Sue was alone with the three women, 
conscious a very little of Luden Cadoresse, who talked 
carelessly, his eyes fixed on her shoulders, conscious very 
much more of a staring sort of difference between her and 
them. It was not clothes. Her strong dark hands clasped 
on her lap showed her that she wore three diamond rings 
on one, an emerald ring upon the other, that on both her 
wrists were bracelets, all her bracelets. She felt a heat 
rise up her body, her neck, there to bring out yet more her 
emerald necklace, her pendant of ruby and pearl. . 

Both together Sue and Roger, they saw, or rather, they 
felt. For a fraction of a second they two were div<M-ced 
from those six guests, and communicated through a sort 
of ether a mixture of hatred and dismay. And yet Sue did 
not understand the subtle message. She knew that she 
was different, and she thought : 

" I wonder why they stare like that. ... I s'pose 
they haven't got as much jewellery as me. . . .* For 
a serond she was vulgar and thought : " Well, I'm a lady 
now." But something else, deep in her, that was tender 
and sweet, said: "Poor things! What a shame they 
shouldn't have jeweUery too. I wish I'd known, I wouldn't 
have put it on ; it's so hard on them to let them see it. 
If only I'd known. . . ." 

Rhoda was on the stairs, preparing to announce that 
dinner was served. She paused, for her mistress rushed 
out of the drawing-room, and as she passed mumbled: 
" Forgotten my handkerchief. Hold on I " 

They filed down the stairs, two by two. It was only as 
they ooUected round the table, looking for their seats, that 
Roger noticed a difference in Sue. All the rings had gone 



3a« 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



except the wedding-dng ; 



the 



engagement ring had 
been shed. There was no pendant now. and only one 
bracelet. He did not know that Sue upstairs had 
stripped of! her trinkets, then put on a few of them again 
rather at random, wept a few tears, and powdered her* 
self over the traces of the weejnng so hurriedly that her 
eyelashes were all white. He had time for anger, but 
not for thoiight : dinner had begim, and he had his part 
to play. 

He realised after a while that he had not been very 
successful in the geographical dbtribution of his guests, 
for he had placed the two most talkative women to hb 
own right and left, while giving Sue the most difficult man, 
Churton, in the hope that St. Panwich would yield them 
something in common. He felt all the pangs of the host, 
f(»- be wanted to talk to Theresa upon his left, while Mrs. 
Fomcett, who sat on his right, was much more determined 
to talk to him. Mrs. Cadoresse. who seemed so much too 
young to be married, was doubtless having a dreadful 
struggle with Fomcett, as usual too tired to talk. He 
felt easier about Cadoresse, for, after all, the fellow was a 
sort of Frenchman, and would not notice too great a 
strangeness in ^ne's conversation. But he did not have 
much time t thjak, for the dinner, skilfully marshalled 
by Rhoda and the waitress, was progressing with the 
swiftness which an ostentatious tradition has taught to 
the domesticity of England. Never before had he been 
conscious of the machinery of a dinner-party which is so 
like a military action. He could feel the disbing-up 
below at the base ; then the dishes came up the stairs 
along the lines of communication, harmoniously de^doyed 
upon the dumb waiter to come into action one by one at 
their regular time, flanked at the exact moment by the 
proper wine. It relieved him to feel it all going smoothly, 
to know himself in the hands of skilled people who con- 
descended to {vetend that he was their master. But he 
could not dwell k»g upon this, for Mrs. Fomcett, a little. 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 



327 



dark, active woman, was detennined to talk about golf. 
Sbt jiaytd at Richmond, and, being as well practised in 
dinner conversation as in the use of golf dubs, she at once 
dug him out of concealment, compelled him to discuss 
the inconvenience of clay links. He agreed, and they 
bewailed the rarity of sand links near London. 

" I'm thinking of joining Sandy Lodge," said Mrs. 
Fomcett. " Why don't you become a member, too ? 
Youll be Me to protect me then. They treat women so 
badly in golf clubs." 

He agreed, and for a long time they analysed the limita- 
tions of play imposed on women until, little by little, the 
conversation threatened to veer to feminism. But nothing 
helped him. He was the host and too watchful ; his eyes 
roved to see that all had what they wanted ; to see whether 
they were enjoying themselves, or at least looking as if 
they were. He could hear every conversation : Theresa, 
who had gallantly broken through Fomcett's crust of 
silence, and after leading him to the new developments in 
painting, which was easy, as that year there was a new 
development every week, had passed to music and was 
discussing Scriabin. He heard her : 

" Of course I went to • Prometheus.' I even went twice, 
as the programme told me to." 

Fomcett murmmed something about ravings. 

" I don't quite think that," said Theresa. " Only there's 
a sort of over-sensitiveness which you can't render in 
music, and Scriabin's trying to . . ." 

He could hear Mrs. Cadoresse and Churton. too. They 
had got on to Settlement work, and, judging from the com- 
parative animation of Churton's face, he was trying to 
persuade her to help. 

" I'm afraid I couldn't," said Mrs. Cadoresse. " You 
see, Lucien, my husband I mean — I don't think he likes 
social work much." Churton looked indignant. " I used 
to do some slumming," said Mrs. Cadoresse, " when I was 
a girl. We afl did." 



m 



328 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



^e looked reflective, as if stiU a young Eng^ girl 
who did everything that was done and ceased to do it when 
it ceased to be done. 

All this time he was consdous of Sue, of her jewds. It 
was obsessing. Now and then, as the dinner went on, 
he lost this peculiar sensitiveness and talked whole- 
heartedly to Mrs. Fomcett. 

" Yes," he said, " I don't want to give up golf ; I really 
am fond of it, for I used to play at Oxford, and you know 
how a feUow gets ragged if he cares for anything but the 
boats, footer or cricket." 
" That's very interesting," said Mrs. Fomcett. " Why ? " 
To his annoyance he had to explain why, but he wanted 
to talk to Theresa, who for a moment had turned away 
from Fomcett ; he wanted to say something simple and 
laughing, scnnething sincere, silly, Uke a playful touch of 
a hand, just to fed near somebody in this formal isolation. 
But he lost his chance, and tiirfe went on; he caught 
snatches of conversation, a debate across the table as to 
whether the tango was immoral, and whether certain 
American states were right to prohibit the turkey trot 
and the burmy hug. He wanted to watch Sue, to hear 
what she was saying, but that was impossible, for she 
spoke too low, and Cadoresse had turned towards her, 
shutting her off a little while he talked. Roger was 
troubled; what could she be saying ? Cadoresse, he knew, 
was a man who went about a good deal ; he was French, 
but he had been a k>ng time in England ; his wife was the 
daughter of Lawton, the Under-Secretary, so, of course, 
he met everybody. It was horrible to think that he might 
be making comparisons between Sue and those other 
women. 

The little smile upon Sue's lips and the nervous play of 
her hands on the knives and forks might indeed have 
decdved him ; perhaps he would not have been decdved 
if he couU have beard Cadoresse talking to her. He 
might have understood had he remembered Hilda's con- 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 



329 



versation at the 1 



' social, and " Cadress 



Frenchy " 

who had picked her up while conducting poUtical investi- 
gations in St. Panwich. 

Sue was uncomfortable at first, and Cadoresse wickedly 
increased that discomfort by asking her whether she knew 
that the Parisian women were bleaching their hair white 
and wearing yellow fox furs. And wasn't it awfully jolly, 
and ripinng, and other emphatically English questions. 
She just managed to say that she did not fancy herself 
white before her time, only to be told that it would be a pity 
to exchange the starless night of her hair for the pallor 
of dawn. She looked up at him shyly and said : " Why, 
that's like poetry." He laughed. He told her she kwked 
like a French girl, being so dark, and talked to her about 
France and Paris. 

" Of course you've been on the Boulevards ? " he said; 
" and isn't the opera lovely ? " 

Her eyes shone ; she had been in Paris on her honey- 
moon, and this was meeting a friend. She did not know 
that Cadoresse smiled at her quietly, and how careful he 
was, naming just the one or two streets and the one w two 
places which an English tourist would remember. They 
talked of Paris for a long time, and in a moment Sue felt 
that she knew it well, tbf.t she was a travelled, important 
young woman, for still Cadoresse led her only to places 
and things that she knew. He gave her no chance to 
feel ignorant or humble. She looked up gratefully at 
the women's man. 

She felt quite familiar with him, he seemed to understand 
her. She was not at all afraid of him, for he seemed so- 
well, one might almost cheek him. She drank another 
glass of hock, to which she was ill-accustomed, and, a 
little later, when bending cbser to her, he said : " Your 
frock's lovely ; you look like a pale flame," she laughed, 
and replied with a twinkle that was almost a wink : " Why 
this thusness ? " She felt quite Ada NuttaUish as sh« said 
that. And Cadoresse did not seem to mind ; he under- 



1! 1 



330 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



stood her so well, it seemed. He was so ready to join her 
upon her own ground. She did not realise how well he 
knew her, her class, her tastes, her hopes, her ambitions, 
her awkwardnesses, and the way to win her a Uttle. She 
said, quite childish : " Mr. Huncote sa;^ we're to have 
a little car." He ;i0ted the painful " Mr. Huncote," but 
replied, quite seriously : " And very nice too." She threw 
him a quick look, not understancUng why she liked him, 
feeling only that somehow there was here an echo of a 
life long dead and somewhat regretted. He was still 
flattering her and she was not afraid. It did not occur 
to her to be afraid of him : why should she ? He was 
married, wasn't he ? So, of course, he could not mean 
anything. Besides, when a man came after one, well, 
one knew it. She was not quite sure that she liked 
men when they came after one, they were so violent 
and determined. This Frenchman seemed so quiet and 
detached, so, of course, he could not be dangerous. 

Now and then she looked at Roger, who seemed to be 
enjoying himself with the Uttle dark woman ; she did not 
half like the idea of having strange women in the house 
like this when you knew nothing about them. She rather 
hated Mrs. Fomcett, and Theresa too. Mrs. Cadoresse, 
she thought, looked at Roger too much, and smiled too 
much. Sue was jealous, she was full of the primitive 
possessiveness of her class that finds it so difficult to 
understand social relations and their genial falsity. What 
was hers was hers ; what she wanted she would take ; 
if these womoi looked as if they wanted to take, it must 
be that they did want to take. She was all instinct, she 
was too true. 

And so the dinner woimd on to its end, with Cadoresse 
lazily playing the fish he did not want, and Roger con- 
scious, through Mrs. Fomcett's eternal conversation, of a 
grave discussion at the other end, between Churton and 
Mrs. Cadoresse, as to the faie of the Scott Expedition 
and the value of Polar joumeyings . . . 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 



331 



§4 

Sue was alone with the women. She was afraid. It 
had not been so bad downstairs, with that Frenchman 
making up to her, and the other men to see what she 
vaguely felt was fair play. And there had been Roger, 
too, though he looked rather coldly at her; but then, 
he always looked cold. As she went upstairs with the 
women, in the middle because she did not know whether 
she ought to go first or last, she thought of him so hand- 
some, so secure. Though she feared him that night and 
knew that in his heart he was angry with her about the 
jewellery, she thought him wonderful. For Roger was 
still enjoying the rarest fruit of matrimonial victory; 
he was still to his wife Madoc ap Gwynedd, the perfect 
prince. 

But it was different with the women alone, and she no 
longer a woman with men who could tolerate and excuse, 
just because she was a woman and pretty ; she was only 
a human creatine with other human creatures who .nade 
no allowances, indeed who were ready to handicap her. 
She felt all this which she did not know, competition among 
women, fear of age, readiness to slay a rival. And yet she 
was fortunate, for Mrs. Fomcett was too pronounced a 
golfer to be a woman quite, while Theresa was too hand- 
some, Edith Cadoresse too tender, to wish her ill. Only 
they were women, and they had to fight the sex battle. 

She struggled over the coffee cups ; they were still too 
small for the bits of sugar. She sat upon the sofa, where 
she had been told to sit, with the three women round her, 
wSuting for her to do the hostess-like thing. For a dreadful 
moment she felt herself sitting there with her mouth open, 
nothing whatever in her head, and Theresa watching her 
with that horrid humorous air of hers ; she rather hated 
Theresa, she thought. It was Mrs. Fomcett saved the 
situation, not because she was much more sensitive than 
a bufialo. but because she wanted to talk. She engaged 



'1',. 



333 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



Theresa with great vigour on massage. Swedish exercises. 
Muller exercises, and many other exercises destined to 
make a figure where there wasn't one. So Sue was thrown 
on Mrs. Cadoresse. She thought her rather sweet, with 
her pale com hair and her eyes like Channel mist. They 
began to talk of the spring. Mrs. Cadoresse said : 

" It makes one feel so young, don't you think, with every- 
thing green and crisp and hard, and the sun setting later ? " 

" Yes," said Sue, thoughtfully, " the days are diawine 
out." ^ 

Mrs. Cadoresse took no notice, and for a while they 
talked of spring in London. Sue thought she was getting 
on very weU now, but Mrs. Cadoresse wandered on to the 
country and to the seaside, to Brighton, to Italy, to aU 
sorts of complicated, expensive places, against which 
a brief honeymoon in Biarritz did not long avail. She 
felt strained as if she were playing a part without being 
word-perfect. She was so afraid of putting her foot in it 
that she hardly dared to talk. 

The conversation strayed to clothes and the spring 
fashions. Here at last was a hyphen, for Mrs. Fomcett 
having caught Mrs. Cadoresse's remark that the new 
hats, with the gauze crown exposing the hair, only suited 
fair women, vigorously fell foul of her. while Theresa, who 
did not view clothes quite in the same way, also joined in. 
It went on for a long time, the argument being that black 
hair under blue gauze was quite as attractive as fair hair 
under black gauze. She dared make no comments for 
the only thing she could think of was seemg these hats 
from the tops of 'buses, and that could not be a refined 
contribution to the debate. So she hstened. rather ad- 
minng, while they discussed the steady rise of the sUt 
m the skirt, for this was becoming more emphatic as draping 
replaced the hobble of the year before. Once only did Sue 
become evident when she enunciated a prejudice against 
shoes with fancy edges. But Mrs. Fomcett was not m- 
terested; the excitement of dinner was working in her 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 



333 



and she was passing from clothes, as dothing, to clothes as 
lure. 

" Yes, I'm quite sure the V's going to be deeper this 
season. I'm very glad ; there's nothing like a deep-cut 
blouse to keep you cool." She laughed. "And if our 
blouses get V-er and V-er downwards, and our ddrts get 
V-«r and V-er upwards, what'll happen, I really don't 
know. Still, thank heaven for silk stockings. All sins 
grow excusable if you make the temptaticm strong enough." 

Mrs. Cadoresse looked slightly shocked, but Theresa 
laughed, and Sue, who did not understand, decided to 
laugh too. Mrs. Fomcett, thus applauded, devebped 
her theme. 

" We've got on in clothes," she said. " Our grandmothers 
used to see how much they could put on ; we experiment 
to find out how much we can do without.' She grew 
reflective : " It's nice to think you no longer need to wear 
any underclothes." 

This time Sue knew that her mouth was really wide open. 
Theresa smiled. 

"Yes," she said, " I quite agree with you ; it's so much 
easier to drape the human figure from the nude than from 
the dad." 

The disappearance of the petticoat was discussed, but 
Sue was much more shocked by Theresa than by Mrs. 
Fomcett ; it seemed such a horrid way to put it, to talk 
of dressing from the nude. She was much less offended 
by Mrs. Fomcett's suggestiveness. Indeed, she quite 
liked Mrs. Fomcett's story about the girl who was angry 
at the dance because her partus brought her lemonade. 
She was easy, anyhow; one could talk with her. She 
was not like Mrs. Cadoresse vrho always seemed to be 
sizing you up like a possible pariourmaid. And Theresa, 
too. embarrassed her because she saw something funny in 
everything. But now she had to talk to Theresa, for Mrs. 
Fomcett was trying to convert Mrsw Cadoresse to sartwial 
depravity. Theresa said : 



It 



li 
■i I 



534 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



h 



"WeU . . . Happy ?- 

Then Sue knew that she was really fond of her. If 
Theresa had said, " How are things ? " or " How are you 
getting on ? " she would have felt patronised and angiy. 
But this was different ; it was Theresa's gentleness under 
Theresa's lightness. 

" Oh," she said, " one has one's ups and downs, but still 
I'm aU right." 

" I'm glad," said Theresa. 

She knew the truth that lay under the awkwardness. 
Sue found herself easy again, and suddenly realised how 
straining it had been all that evening to hea*- talk and to 
talk about foreign places that she had not been to, plays 
she did not understand, frocks she did not wear, a hfe that 
was not hers. She wanted to open to someone who really 
understood her, not like Cadoresse, as a woman, but, like 
Theresa, as a human being. She whispered : 

" It's a little difficult sometimes. I don't know why. I 
never seem to do anything quite right." 

" How quite ? " asked Theresa. 

" Well, I always have to be told." 

Theresa laughed. "But you couldn't know without 
being told, could you ? " 

She looked gloomy. " I dunno, but I feel I ought to." 

Something hurt Theresa inside, for that was the truest 
thing Sue had ever said ; she was groping for the instincts 
of a well-bred woman which alone could help her in unex- 
pected difficulties, and she did not possess them. She 
had to go about in life in an armour of rules, and it was 
heavy. Theresa took the brown hand and pressed it. 
She said nothing, but Sue felt tears very near her eyes 
" How silly I " she thought. " There's nothing to cry for, 
IS there ? " But still she bhnked vigorously. 

Mrs. Fomcett was now talking of cosmetics. It seemed 
Madame Mendelssohn alone had the secret of lip salve ; 
Chariot et Caillon were hopeless. It sounded very Ada 
Nuttalish. 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 



335 



The evening dragged when the men came in. Roger 
looked so hostile, so different. He was Roger, not one's 
husband. One was anxious when he was about ; one might 
not be doing right, for one didn't want to hurt him, and 
one did so want to be a lady. 

Mrs. Cadoresse sang extraordinary songs : it was no 
good trying to catch the tune. Sue read the title of one 
of them : " Ich sroiU nicht," whatever that might mean. 
And Theresa played ; it was easier to catch that music, 
though some of her songs, too, were in foreign languages. 
She caught two French words: " charmante Gabrielle," 
and, realising that these meant " charming Gabrielle," felt 
a little better. There was not much talking in the 
intervals, merely appreciative murmurs and musical dis- 
cussions about people called Chikeawsky and Mosert. 
One didn't know what it all was about. At last Mrs. 
Cadoresse, on Roger's request, played something by a 
man called Barsch, which had no beginning and no end, 
and was all middle, and always seemed to begin again 
when it looked like going to stop. . . . 

They all went rather suddenly about ten minutes past 
eleven at the end of the musical orgy. In Sue's ears 
rang a familiar tune, for she, too, loved music in her 
way. It filled her ears, her brain, and all of her as glee- 
fully she sang it to herself, the old familiar tune : 

Liza's tootsies. Liza's feet. 

You can bet theyll take the cake. 

Will Liza's plates of meat. 

15 

She was relieved when they left: the deepest delight 
of a hostess is to get rid of her guests. She said : 

" WeU, it didn't go off half badly." 

Roger stared at bar moodily, and for some mon^nts 
did not reply. Suddenly, as if something burst within : 

" What the devil d'you mean l^ coming down to dinner 
ooldng like Spink's show-case ? " . 



Hit 

I til 



I 



i\ 



336 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



" Spink ? ' said Soe, blankly. 

" What d'you mean by covering yaorsdf all over with 
buckles and rings, and things ? Don't you know better 
by now?" He was trembling. He knthed himself 
already, and yet could not stop. 

"You didn't . . ." 

"No, I didn't tell you; of course, I can't tdl you 
everything. Didn't you see how those other women 
were got up? They knew better than to put on six 
rings and five bracelets." 

" Three bracelets," said Sue, miserably, "I've only got 
three." 

Roger clenched both fists : 

"I s'pose you'd have worn ten if you'd had ten? 
Really this is intolerable." 

For a 1^ time she watched him stamp up and down 
the drawing-room, raving at her, vowing she was un- 
teachable, that she didn't listen, that she didn't care. 
That they might as well go and bury themselves in the 
country if she was going to make hereelf ridiculous every 
minute. He was very handsome, she thought, when he 
was angry, and she was so hmnbJe that she could not be 
angry, too; he kn-w best. But still she felt unfairly 
treated, and she could not say so, because she lacked 
words, and there he was, shouting at her, not giving her 
a chance. For a moment she was tempted to resist 
him: 

" What's the good of having dimuns if you can't wear 
'em?" 

But he only raged more furiously. It seemed that 
diamonds were <mly to be .worn sparing, judiciously. 
That there wwe occasions for no jewellery, and occts'ans 
for a little jewellery, and probaUy occaskms for a little 
more. Sue Mt that life was very complicated, and how 
was one to know? She couldn't e:q)lain. When she 
tried, it was like exi^aining the plot of three plays mixed 
with one cinema film. And still the sense ol y nf aj mf^s 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 



S37 



was upon her. She had not worn all these things at 
dinner, she had taken them off. She said : 

^ But, Roger, I went upstairs and I took off . . ." 

"Yes, that makes it still worse. If you had made a 
fool of yourself, the only thing to do was to stick it out 
instead of drawing everybody's attention to yomself." 

" There'fi no {^easing you," said Sue. 

The misery in her voice and the neighbourhood of tean 
sobered her husband. He said : 

" Why did you run upstairs and take them off ? " For 
a second he was hopeful : " Did it strike you that you'd 
d<Mie the wrong thing.? " 

She did not understand his hopefuhiess, so she did not 
tell the lie which would have made peace ; she told the 
truth, so much less useful between husband and wife * 

-Well. I thought." she said, «. . . you'd been 'veiy 
kmd to me, giving me all those things. They hadn't 
got any." 

"Yes?" 

"WeU, I thought it didn't look nice of me .. . 
well, you see . . ." The sentence taUed off. 

He did not understand at all: "Not nice? No, of 
course not, but what d'you mean ? " 

"What I say," said Sue, suddenly taking refuge in 
dignity, as she found clarity impossible. 

" Don't say that I " shouted Roger. " For Heaven's sake 
don't let's have any more of those ready-made phrases. 
Say what you mean." 

" I have." said Sue. 

He rushed to the door, shouting : " I can't stand any 
more of this." But he turned, came back, suddenly 
ashamed, as if he had struck a child. He took within 
his her hands, which were rigid and retracted, as if thev 
hated his cmtact. 

"Sue," he murmured, "my darling, do try to under- 
stand. I don't want you to think me cruel to you, only 
I do want you to see that you mustn't show off hke 

33 



338 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



that— flhow o«f your jewelloy to other women. It's not 
nice. 

Then Sue began to weep: "I didn't want to show 
off. . . . It's just what I didn't want to." For a few 
moments she could not speak, so thickly did she weep. 
At last in gasps, while he held her close, she managed 
to murmur: "That's why I went up . . . they 
didn't have no bracelets . . . they ... 1 didn't 
want them to ... it might hurt their feelings." 

He was silent and moved ; he understood at last how 
the little tragedy arose; he understood much too late, 
as men will, that Sue's flight and sudden discard of jewels 
were due just to that delicate feeling which he desu^ in 
another form. It was cruel: wishing to please him by 
decking herself out she had offended him; wishing to 
spare other women, poorer or less beloved, she had become 
ridicuk)us in their eyes ; by being so delicate as not to 
tell him frankly what had moved her so to act, she had 
angered him. He was very unhappy, and yet faintly he 
hated her because she had made him unjust in his own 
eyes. He was exasperated, he was afraid of the futuie, 
and yet at the same time he was charmed and moved. 
So, unable to say anything that could help much, he held 
her close and kissed her until she was comforted. He 
could not reason; he wanted to comfort her because 
thus only could he comfort himself. And he had but oae 
thought in his pity: Eyes that I have kissed shall not 
weep. 

§6 

" Yer look like two pen'orth o' Gawd 'dp me," said Mrs. 
Groby. 

" Everything seems all right," said Sue, sulkily. 

" All is not gold that gUtteis," repUed Mrs. Groby. 

Sue said nothing, for evidently that sort of remark was 
final, so Mrs. Groby went on, by which is not meant that 
she went on talking, but that she " went on." It ai^)eaied 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 339 

that Sw had black rings under her eyes and looked starved, 
that she had nothing to say for heiself . Mis. Grobv 
having got to the end of these complaints utterad them 
over agam. She then became gynecological. 

" Oh, no.» said Sue, " it's not that." 

Bfas. Groby eyed her suspiciously : " Quite sure ? You 
been mamed eight months, there ort t' be somethin' 
on the way.- She became facetious: -That'U put you 
nght, and mi too, w'en 'e's got to walk up an' down the 
passage aU night with the twins 'oUerin'." 

Sue did not reply, and with apparent irrelevancy said: 
I say, ma. I wish you'd teU Perce not to send me 
picture postcards." 

Mrs. Groby tooked a Uttle surprised, as she did not 
connect this remark with her prophecy of Roger and the 
howhng twins : .^ -o « ««» 

" Postcards? " she said, rather vaguely. " 'Ow ? Oo's 
been sendin' you postcards ? " 

"Peice." 

" WeU, why shouldn't 'e ? " 

" Not that sort." 

Mrs. Groby's eye Ht up : « Yer don't mean ter say 'e's 
been sendm' you pictures of . . .» (A vision of the 
Scarlet Woman arose ia her mind) "... baDyrirb?- 

Sue laughed; it was so like Ma to think of U'let 
prls m that dghteen-seventy way of hers, as if shj did not 
know that nowadays the chorus was all the go 

"No." she ^d. " that's not it, only . . .'he sent me 
that one of the men near the pub., the lilies of the vaUev 
You Imow, the one signed, ' Cynic.' or ' Cynical.' or some-' 

" Yes ? " said Mrs. Groby. 

" Wen. it's not nice . . . Roger didn't like it." 
Oh, 'e didn't, didn't 'e ? " said Mrs. Groby. « Then.', 
many a thmg a 'usband don't hke. Sue. but 'e's »ot to 
lump It. 'E's your brother." * '® 

Sue grew obstinate. 



5f> 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



bong 



my brother doesn't give him leave to 

She hesitated between " dissensions " and 

. . "Well, trouble between me and 



"Him 
make . 
"distortions 
Roger." 

" Wot's 'e «en sayin' ? • asked Mrs. Groby. She was 
angry ; she was not going to have her son-in-law " come 
it "over her son, even if he was right. " A joke's a joke. 
If 'e sends you somethin' naughty, you tell me, an' I'll 
•kin 'im aHve even if 'e « fifteen. But I don't see wot 
yer makin' such a song and dance about." 

" Roger doesn't like it/ saki Sue. 

"WeU. 'e'll'aveto . . .- 

" No, he shan't lump it. I'm surprised at you, ma, after 
all he's done for you." 

Mrs. Groby drew heradf up. Her voice blended sorrow 
with dignity, " I thort it'dcome t' that," she said. " Now 
she's throwin' 'is money inter me teeth. I didn't arsk' 
'im for 'is money, y'ort t' know. We're 'ard-workin' 
people; T didn't arsk 'im for a Uoomin' tea-set." 

" Oh, never mind the tea-set, ma, you know I didn't 
mean that. Only when you think he got Peree that job, 
and that Muriel won't have to do any work like I did, and 
that there she is like a lady at the academy , , 
Well, you might do what I ask." 

Mrs. Groby changed her line. 

" 'As 'e been givin' yer the what for ? When I see a giri 
'umble like, that's wot I always thinks." She looked at 
her daughter more closely : " You been *avin' a bit of a 
dust up at 'ome ; that true ? " 

" One has one's ups and downs," said Sue, ungraciously. 

"Mostly downs," said Mrs. Groby. "I know, I been 
married twenty-two years." She grew reflective : * Seems 
longer. But wot's the trouble ? 'E don't lift 'is elbow ? " 

" Ma I How can you ? " said Sue, disgusted. 

" They all does more or less," said Mrs. Groby, who knew 
the world. " Unless they runs after other women. One or 
t'other, you've got the opshon, sometimes it's both. And 



then 
ear." 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 



341 



you're lucky w'en you don't get a dip on the 

Sue felt it impossible to explain that hers was not pri- 
mitive mamage as practised in St. Panwich. She need 

d^^Slouf^em ^h*'' ""' ""% ""* "*• ^* ^^'" 
oowitnout em. She grew sentunental : " I always savs 

incl'r.'^'^^^'.'^^"**"^ • • • makesTdS 
ence hke m the 'ouse. So you must put up with it. as 

?Z ^^.? '^' "^™S« «^«- You give 'im a g^^ 

W.^^* ^"^ "7 ^f ^^'"^ ^'«* y°« ««* i°> « bed and 
e wants to go to sleep; that's the time. A man ain't 

g^ aw^"""" ^ " '' ^'* 8°* 'i« trousers on ; 'e can't 

Sue laughed : « I'll remember, ma." 

The conversation grew more harmonious. Sue felt 
conifortable m the kitchen; she did not mind being 
scolded, for was this not her own mother who had brought 
h^up by scolding and arm-dragging for the first five 
years of her hfe and by spanking for the next fourteen? 
What was home without a good old taUdng-to ? She even 
tn^ to «p^ what had happened between her and 
Roger. She found that difficult, as she was not used to 
expkimng As for Mrs. Groby. she understood not at aU : 

for.if edontwantyertowear'em? Not as I think you 
o^ht to ave -em." she added. « Dimuns always mTes 
me tlunk of them pamted 'ussies. You know, ie flashy 
sort m the Euston Road." She grew thoughtful : "But 
?^uJ^ ^^. *° .^* ^^y are in the Tottenham 
Ki , li °^*Ji ^>-' '* ^^ 'igh-steppers. they are." Sue 

woman, am t you ? " 

"StiU. ma. I wish you wouldn't talk about them, it's 
not nice. 

"My!" said Mrs. Groby. "We're quite the ladv 
am t we ? StiU. talkin' about wot we was talkin' about I 






nf 



i 



^1 ^ 



34a 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



don't see wot you mean. Ladies wears dimuns, don't 
they ? Tho' 'ow yer tell them from them 'ussies, I don't 
know." 

" You hardly can," Sue whispered. 

All her Puritanism came to the top, and for s<»ne minutes 
in low voices mother and daughter discussed Mrs. Fom- 
cett's tenible conversation about low blouses and the 
proper use of lip salve. Mrs. Groby was shocked and 
delighted: that sort of thing made you realise that the 
pictures you saw in the Daily Mirror were true. At 
last she offered Sue a cup of tea. 

While Mrs. Groby got the tea Sue enjoyed a sentimental 
journey. Things had not altered much in F£iradise Row, 
for Huncote had thought it best to let his new family 
alone and to remain behind them, a sort of St. Anthony 
of Padua, to be called up if wanted. Beyond the job 
for Perce he had given an annual allowance for Muriel's 
education. Mrs. Groby had rrceived a ten-pound note to 
buy some new furniture. But, of course, she did not 
buy it. Huncote had had a vision of the rising poor, rising 
through the medium of a new bedroom carpet and a spring 
mattress. Only he did not like to interfere, and the ten 
pounds were not used for these purposes : there had been 
a great feast, enriched by a middle cut of sahnon and 
unlimited grocer's port. And Mrs. Groby had bought an 
imitati<« Crown Derby tea-«et fnm Bubwith's showcase 
which had haunted her for twenty years. An impulse of 
prudence caused her to buy twenty-five sevenpenny 
Insurance stamps for the probable time when Mr. Groby 
would be out of a job, but the rest had gone in Mrs. Groin's 
equivalent of wine and women. 

So Sue's sentimental journey could indeed be perf<»med. 
There was the kitchen range with the brdten brick at 
the bock; it had always been broken and so remained 
because Mr. Grol^, being a stone-mastHi, was not doing 
any work in his off-time. It was better so ; the bndoen 
brick was home. There was Perce's bed, with a aster 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 343 

off, and the worn place on the boards. She went into 
the room she had so long shared with MurieL It moved 
her. Under the short leg of the washstand was still the 
tile. "His Blajesty The Baby- hung over the mantel- 
piece, but Muriel had removed Miss Gertie ifillar and put 
up Mr. Gerald du Manner instead. That was a pity 
Sue sighed: how things changed! StiU. such was life. 
She was glad to gaze once more upon Great-Aunt Elizabeth's 
mourning card. But Muriel's tasxe, now untrammeUed 
had mjured a Kttle the old atmosphere ; Muriel had been 
leammg things at the academy: here was a coloured 
prmt of Vera Foldna. engaged in what Muriel caUed the 
Russian boUette. Evolution I Fortunately, near the picture 
tiiere was a laige packet of chocolate and peppermints. 
Sue helped herself to peppermints as she wa"-ed round 
the room. The fragrance of peppermints brou t up the 
good old times, nearly nine months old ; so old. She 
detennined to go into FuUer's as she went home to buy 
some peppermints for private debauches. The past was 
steong upon her : just for fun she struggled with the chest 
of drawers, and it thrilled her to feel that the drawere 
would not open, just as used to happen in the old dead 
days of misty grace. . . . 
" Oh, ma r said Sue. • How could you ? * 
The whole of the Crown Derby tea-set stood upon the 
table which shone because Bfrs. Groby had polished it 
with a wet rag. It looked wonderful, blue and gold, and 
Mrs. Groby had ahieady poured out a cup of tea, black as 
mk. There was a loaf upon a blue-and-gold platter and 
a fainting lump of margarine in its dish. Mis. Groby 
sat behind her table and her tea-set. hands crossed upon 
her belt. She was beaming. She ought to have had a 
cap and a large tabby cat. She looked like a picture 
in the Royal Academy entitled - The Cottage • or " Home, 
Sweet Home. 

Sue did not see anything jarring in this ■»«»*i^ft f^ but 
«he was disap point ed. 



11 






344 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



" I wish you hadn't, ma," she murmured. " You see, I 
wanted to have it like we used to, out of the old brown 
teapot." 

" It's got a broken spout," said Mrs. Groby. 

" That's just it," said Sue, " broken spout and all, like 
it used to be." 

" But the teacups don't match I " cried Mrs. Groby, in 
despair, for her efiect had failed. 

" Never mind," said Sue, " they didn't use to match. I 
used to have a pink one, you remember ? And the white- 
and-gold ones, they aren't all gone, are they ? " 

" No," said IJrs. Groby, " they ain't. But I don't see 
wot you want 'em for." 

" Just as it used to be," Sue murmured again. " You 
might, ma, just for once." 

She was sentimental, but she was all soft and melting 
inside, as if the old simple past laughed and wept to- 
gether in her ears, the old beautiful past when . . . 
well, you knew what you were up to. 

"That's no pleasin' you." said Mrs. Groby. "now 
you've become a lady." 

But. still grumbling and i»rotesting, she In^wed Sue a 
special cup of tea in the brown teapot with a broken 
spout. She clearly looked upon this as a fine lady's 
fancy: if Sfrs. Groby had bsen a historian she would 
have thought of Mane Antoinette tucking up her sleeves 
and making butter in the garden of Trianon. 

Sue stayed, for she wanted to see Perce and Muriel. 

She would jH-obably miss Perce, who seldom came home 
from the Gty before half-past six. But in a few minutes 
Muriel artvied from the academy. She looked very 
pretty in her lengthened skirt, rather high boots of glac4 
kid. and composition gloves, the very nearest thing to 
leather. Her hair was almost up, too. for the brown 
pigtail had turned into a drooping bun. She laid upon 
the table her school satchel and a little bag, mysteriously 
swollen all over except in one comer when was the obvioiis 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 



345 



powder-puff lump. Also " The Days of Bruce," bv Grace 
Aguilar. from the academy library. Then she held out a 
gloved hand to her sister, said : " How d'you do ? " and 
lossed her upon the cheek with a sacramental air. Yes, 
she was all right, she was quite happy ; the girls were 
very nice ; she got on very well with them, thank you 
especially with Miss Bubwith. It seemed that Muriel 
had been able to help Miss Bubwith on a knotty point 
in Frend literature, something in the Miserables, by 
Victor Hugo. The conversation was for a while maintained 
scholastic, and Sue was given glimpses of the once empyrean 
circles of St. Panwich. of Caroline Bubwith. who had 
tickets for the Zoo on Sundays, of Gwenwynwyn Davies • 
they said that Davies in the High Street made stiU more 
m the drapery than even Mr. Bubwith. And the history 
mistress was related to an earl. It was aU rather daunting 
and so stirring that Sue was tempted into vulgarity, and 
casually let out that Lady Montacute had called on her. 
Muriel ate her tea with a fastidious curling of the nostrils 
because cold fish was, weU, was. well anyhow wasn't late 
dinner. Mrs. Groby said nothing, but listened to her 
daughters, rivals and partners in grandeur. There was 
a litUe hush in Paradise Row. It was inhuman even >vhcn 
Munel confessed that the driU instructress was rather 
nice, with her long strong arms and her tanned face. She 
stopped. Muriel could not let herself go and acknowledge 
that she had a violent rave for the drill instnictnss, 
that it was lovely to give her violets, and perhaps stiU 
loveUer to be told not to be a litUe fool, in that nice young 
man voice of hers. No, enthusiasm was not ladylike, 
Muriel thought: a few more years of progress and she 
would think " it wasn't done." 

There was a ring at the electric beU. Muriel did not 
move, but went on with the cold fish as if she expected 
a maid to answer. Mrs. Groby made as if to get up, but 
Sue, without thinking, ceded to an old habit, ran to the 
door and opoied it She reoMled, her knees suddenly all 



346 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



bendy, for there in the bad light stood Bert CaldweU, his 
bowler upon the back of his head, and his hands nervously 
playing with a galvinometer. They looked at each other, 
these two, for an apparently long time, horns, time 
enough to review all their past, to analyse their present, 
glimpse their future. A torrent of memory rose in both, 
stifling their words— walks round the houses in Highbury, 
others on Hampstead Heath, tram rides, hot scones, a 
garnet brooch making the word " Susannah," kisses in a 
quiet mews ... and vaguely a vision of two rooms 
once dreamt of, of Sunday, a clean collar, a political meet- 
ing, while Carl Mara Caldwell. Holyoake CaldweU, and 
their little sister, Marie Bashkirtcheff CaldweU. . . 

It lasted just one second, aU that. Then Sue said: 
"Oo . . . Bert!" 

" HaUo ! " he said, with false airiness. 

" Fancy meeting you," said Sue. 

The electrician took no notice of her. 

"'Evening, mother," he said. " Dining with the countess. 
Murid?" 

Then there was an awkward Uttle silence, during which 
Sue wondered why Bert was there. She did not know 
that he had taken to Mrs. Groby, and that he Uked to 
come in for a few minutes after work. She understood 
that a Uttle later, but what she never understood until 
much time had passed was that Bert went to see Mrs. 
Groby to taUc to her about SociaUsm, and be told that 
he would know better when he grew up, just because he 
liked to sit in the kitchen and remember how he used to 
go there sometimes and sit with Sue by the window, 
scaicfimes kiss her just there, on the right side of the 
range, when Mrs. Groby went into the next room. (One 
could not see the right side from the doorway.) He hated 
himself for it, but he had to go ; it was his one streak of 
sentimentaUty, and it went right through him— it was his 
secret vice. 

Mrs. Groby fdt embarrassed; this was a dreadful 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 



947 



situation. It was just the sort oi thing which happened at 
the HoUoway when they had a really good melodrama on. 
But she did not know the rest of her part. Bert made 
violent efforts to carry things off, but he did not quite 
know what he was saying. 

" Been workin' late ? " Mrs. Groby asked in despair, 
knowing this to be idiotic. 

"No," said Bert. "Things are a bit slack just now, 
now we've done re-wiring the town hall. There's a silly 
job for you I What they want to change the voltage for 
I don't know, and pull the whole place about ; wasting 
the ratepayers' money, that's what it is." 

"Ah! "said Mrs. Groby, "they don't care wot they 
does." She grew skilful. " Is it true they 'ave champagne 
lunches ? " 

Bert came near to gritting his teeth. 

" Looks hke it from the accoxmts, especially at the 
Board of Guardians. Being a charity place, they begin 
at home." 

" Miss Denn/s father's a guardian," said Mudd, 
rei»oachfully. 

Bert laughed : " Well, you can ask her if it's true, now 
that you're in society, Muriel." 

" I wouldn't dream of doing such a thing," said Muriel. 
" We don't talk about things hke that, Bert." 

Sue felt Uke a ghost watching mortals. She oagjtit to 
say something, she must say something, she wouldn't 
be so obvious then. She faltered : 

" Girls have got plenty of things of their own to talk 
about, Bert." 

The young man's fact did not move. He said to Mrs. 
Groby: 

" How's that bell I put up for yoa ? ' 

"Oh, it works beautiful," said Mrs. Groby. "Tho', 
yott know, Bert, I forgits to ring, being used to the 
knocker." 

" You'U have to learn, mother/ said MurieL 



348 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



" Of course she'U have to leam." said Bert. « How d'you 
expect to get any progress if you don't apply modem science 
in the home ? 

There was a Uttle gap during which Mrs. Groby fdt 

humble. She had let Bert put in that electric beU ; it 

seemed to suit her greatness, and it had pleased him so 

to do It. It had taken such a long time to set up the 

battenes m Muriel's room . . . which had once been 
Sues. 

Again Sue offered the most intelligent remark she could 
^,"?*? -!*', ^^*^"*y' ^hile Bert, without answering, 
filled the tolerated pipe of the old friend, and Ut it So 
after a while, when other topics had been discu^— 
the temperament of one of Bert's pak, a rather nice 
murder just then in the papers, human topics that inter- 
ested her, m which sl>e would have liked to share-she 
stood up suddenly and said that she must go. She felt 
outcast she felt alone. And not alone as one upon a 
peak who sees below little humanity, but like Ishmael 
abandoned in the desert. She kissed her mother and 
Munel. then bravely, for the second time meeting Bert's 
eyes, she shook hands with him. It was dreadful for 
then- hands were bare, and to feel again the hardne^ of 
the workman's finger-tips after the soft pointed fingers 
of men of another breed ... it made her woree 
than melanchohc ; in an incomprehensible way it filled 
her with excitement and an old desire renewed and made 
vivid. He was so real somehow. 
" Good-bye," she said, unsteadily. 

,, m" * w T "^f f *^^' ^°'' '^ ^^ ^ ^°"& smce he had 
held that finn httle brown hand which looked different 
now with its pretty nails and its gold bracelet. So lust 
because he was stirred and unhappy to the verge of teare 
he^ was auy ; he was even slangy. He repUed : 
Cheer oh I Good evening I " 
After Sue had gone Muriel went into her bedroom to 
put her hair straight, for she had to go to the Monis dancing 






THE LAND OF DOUBT 345 

class which Mrs. Davies had organised at "The Cedare" 
^Gioby remained alone with the young man. who sat 
stexmg at the range pulling very fast at his pipe. She 
wanted to say something, but it would not come She out 

i. flu ? ^? "^u *'" ^"^ "°* *« t*^e on so. But 
she fdt shy. So she just patted his shoulder once or 

•^?'sU^^ S;."^ With a healing air: - Every cloud 

§7 
AU through (Knner Sue was rather sUent. She sat there 

a petal fttm, the thick bunch of violSwhich Mrs. hS 

^*„^*/??u^^"- Roger was amiable that ^h? 
t^i \l '^.''' ^''J^ the car they would buy Xk 
^ter of tiie violas, and didn't she think that the dusi^ 
v^det had a more English grace ? He tried her upoo 
S.fK "^ ^. T"' ^"^ »tatdines8 of Rhoda. andX 
ktest breakage of the increasingly athletic cat. But ^e 
did not respond. She sat there pr«)ccupied. asking her^tf 

^? Tf i/** J^ ™** hankering after Bert, of course 
not. But stiU she fdt she ought not to fed like J^ 
and was remorseful It was not her fault ; but stiU it 
toMR:^^**"''''^PP'°^- Later-mthieveni^slJe 

" Well," he said. " what about it ? " 

Shewriggled. " Oh. I don't know . . . onlyitfeds 
so queer after after having known him Ltonl? 

^ I undeptand." said Roger. « but that's aU over.- ^ 
Yes. Its all over," said Sue. "only, you see. we being 
mamed. I can't help feeling that I ou^tn't to " 
^Oj^n;ttowhat? lUer^'snoharminyourmeetmg 

This hurt her; it was not in accord with the proper 
jealousy of a married man. ^^^ 



H 



350 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



"WeU. if you don't mind.' she said. 'I don't. Only 
. . . yon can call me a silly if you like, but when one's 
married one's married." She struggled with an emotion. 
"That's the difference between being married and not. 
It's . . . it's not having anything left for anybody 
else, don't you think ? " 

" Yes, I understand," said Roger, rather moved. 

"And so^ going back like that to . . . well, there 
never was anything in it . . . but still, you know, he 
... he was gone on me. So it seemed to me I oughtn't 
to . . . even shake hands becaiise . . ." Then her 
eyes grew soft : " Well, there's only you now." 

He got up and went round the table, put his arms round 
her shoulders and drew her close. He understood the 
straight, dean feeling which struggled to come forth from 
her like a dear spring through clay. As he kissed her she 
too flung her arms round him. But there was a difference 
in her caress; he was stirred with the most delicate emotion 
because he had conquered an entire faithfulness, because 
he was grateful, because in such delight he could in that 
minute overcome so many things that stung, forget so 
many fears. But she hekl him gripped more nervously, 
pressing her face against his imtil it hurt, as if she were less 
offering love than begging him to hold her doser, to 
protect her against the enf(^ding past, to weld for her a 
chain so dose that never could she run out when beyond 
the past went pping. . . . 

Later in the evening, when they were wdinary again, 
she told him that she had asked Mrs. Groby to tea on 
Sunday. 

" I hope yon don't mind," she said. 

"Mind?"heiepUed. " Why should I mind ? ' 

She sat with downcast head. 

" I oog^t to have asked you first." 

" You haven't got to ask me," he said gently. " Do try 
and understand that you're quite free ; you can do just 
what you like. Haven't you got that yet ? " 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 



35X 



' Yes," said Sue. but she meant " No." 

Later, before he went to bed, he thoon^t again of the 
little incident. It had been hard on her to meet Bert like 
that, so suddenly, though it did not matter so much as 
she thouc^t. Roger Huncote was enough of a male egwst 
not to realise that Bert could matter now that he, Roger 
Huncote. had come. She had taken it too hard. Still, he 
must help her, even if she was too delicate, too sensitive. 
He must build her a present to Wot out the past. He 
remembered that Mrs. Groby would come on Sunday. He 
did not think he could tackle Mrs. Groby alone with Sue. 
Who ever could he ask? He could not ask anybody 
ordinary. And yet he must ask somebody. Well, he 
wouM ask Theresa, she wouldn't mind. After all. who 
cared ? Before going to bed he went down to lock up. 
He had to turn out the lights in the drawing-room, for Sue 
had left them all on as she went to bed. She often did 
that, and it irritated him. He did not know why 
it irritated Wm ; he only came near the edge of under- 
standing that this waste of electric light meant exactly 
the same thing as the purchase of bad jam and cheap 
tumblers, that Sue was instinctively economical when she 
bought things that the poor bought, but that she was 
wasteful in things such as light because those were things 
of the rich, and had never meant anything to her. It was 
not dear, but somehow it was tragic. 

§8 
Theresa kept Roger's letter until the last. She was an 
epicure in those things; she always looked first at the 
drcidars, the bills, and the letters in familiar handwritings, 
keejang for the last the adventure of the unknown hand. 
She hardly reaUsed why Roger's letter should dominate 
even adventure. But after she had read it twice she lay 
back, and for a while stayed thinking. It was so i»tiful, 
80 easy to understand. Roger was ahnost telling her 
* . . or how otherwise could she understand that 



i^ 



352 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



phrase : " I've got to ask somebody, and somehow it's so 
difficult." He was ahnost telling her that he dared ask 
nobody but her. These peo^de made loneliness round 
him. It was awful. And he knew, and the letter sounded 
ahnost as if he did not care, as if he had said to himself : 
" Good heavens ! Let's settle down, and all that sort of 
thing, and be happy, and not think of it. It doesn't 
matter to Sirius." Tears filled her eyes as she thought of 
him like this, alone and beginning not to care, like Robinsm 
Crusoe before Man Friday came. But Theresa was a 
woman as well as a friend, and she could not help thinking 
how happy Crusoe would be if only he knew there was a 
Afeui Friday in the worM. He did not. There he was on 
his islands among the goats with nobody to talk to him. 

" I couM ^Ik to him." she thought, and her eyes grew 
dim with the sweetness of that impossible conversation. 
She put the letter down, her unhappiness growing swiftly 
as the plant from the seed in the fakir's little pot. The 
Uo(nns of pity were two, one for him. one for herself. 
His she saw as a big bfeom of a mauve, so pale that it was 
almost grey. Coukl this go on? Could he so remain 
divorced from his own people? Couki he indefiniiely 
dwell in St. Panwich tents because those of Kedar .veie 
dosed to him ? She thought of the dreadful things that 
might hai^ien to him, a growing isolation, a shrinking 
from his own people, worse still, an enthusiastic adoption 
of another breed and its manners: unpressed trousers, 
japes in the street, drink perhaps. She shiveied. She 
thought of a theosophical friend of hers who said : " It's a 
kHVg way up the ray." Yes, and sudi a short way down. 
Then she thought of the ascendmg ray like a butter shde, 
and laughed, for even yrixa she was very \mhappy Theresa 
couM laugh at buriesque. But it did not last long : before 
hw eyes was the other bioom of jaty, mauve also . . . 
but she oodd not hdp being an egoist. It was not mauve 
turning to grey, like Roger's ; hers was mauve turning to 
Mack. She knew just thai how much he meant to her. 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 333 

SL^hT^K'^AS ^^' ^^ «»«««aNe hope. 

1 T^-^uT^ **~"** ^'"^ ^ ***««• But no it was 
not youth .he loved in him; it was jmt Wm sTi lo^ 
and for the fct time she told her^If ^qtSrsimpirl; 

dymg child ; it must die. but still she can feel uuon h^ 

^ "*- '^ rr" ^ Wthing^^X^ 
to her Who knows ? Pferhaps it wiU not die ? " B ^ 
the whisper w«i very feeble, drowned by the cry of pain 
which came out of that letter ; she could hann/hear^he 
^L^'Z f^' ^"'^ ^^" ^'Jy *»>»* cry^bl^dfeg 

tobel^' uS-^ "' "^ ^""^ ™* *^ ^"'P ""' °^ '*'» 6««8 

Elizabeth came in. She found her mistress lying upon 
te fac^ hugging the pillow, her shouldera going up icd 

^.H r^^'^' '^*^°"* • «'^- Eli«»bethwLdd 
SS» J^dlS?^; ". *• **^= "Y^' »*«»•» Setting 
COM, «nd did not at once undeistaid why Thei4i did 

Z '^i.n^K^ "J*** "t'"^ ^ ** "o*^<^ the rhythiSc 
nseand faU of the shm shoulders and the struggle of the 
l^i^the pillow, determined that nob<fy shouS 

S9 

<5h?2Jr*^*^ ^ ^ drawing-room for M«. Groby. 
uu^^^^ ""** *^°^' ^°'" she had brought Sr 
h««ban4 Ptrec. Muiid. and a friend, a hoan« Sd X 

flwing female with a large bast and a smaU baby. Se 
more the memer ^ 

n JS^^J^*i^*'e~"^****^**' '*»' by °o^ She was 
SSTl ^^??^?1'^- As for Muriel, she under 
8t«Ki Uiat one had to be much richer to live at -The 

Cedars, m Highbury, than here, and so she was preparS 

23 



i! 



J! 



954 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



to make aUowancet. A» for Pterce. the lapouibaity of 
the stamp-book had greatly increaaed hia coolnen. together 
with the familiarity bred in the Gty of aoqaMntanoe 
with laige cheques ; he told them about that vciy aooo. 
Perce had everything his own way. as Sue was pualyied 
by the situation. If it had not been for Tberaia. Roger 
wouM have felt it necessary to sdse his father-in-law and 
Perce, take them downstairs and make them drink while 
Sue managed the two women. Bat Theresa seemed 
strangely undismayed. She asked the baby's name, she 
poked it in the side and made it guigle while its mother 
perspired with delight. Simultaneously she engaged Mrs. 
Groby. leaving Sue fret to ask Perce the questions he 
wanted to be asked. 

Huncote felt better; he had to entertain only Mr. 
Groby. and this was quite easy : if the public-houset had 
on Sundays closed at four instead of three it might peniaps 
have been less easy, but. as it happened. Mr. Groby was 
jwit about friendly, though there was something lather 
p«;netrating about his breath. Naturally, they drifted 
into politics ; Mr. Groby was a strong Conservative, but 
most of his political opinions had been melted down into 
a protest: ninepence for fourpence. Roger was not 
greatly in love with the Iiuorance Act. but he found 
himself defending it with a vigour that would have made 
Mr. Masterman envious. Strong in his slum expeiknce. 
he pulverised Mr. Groby's points as to the cheapness of 
doctors, though he had failed so to deal with Sue. But 
then Mr. Groby was a man and tried to aigue logically, 
which served him ilL Also, he had to struggle with a 
tendency to call Roger •• sir," and that got in his way. 
They managed very amiably, those two. He could hear 
Perce talking to Sue : 

"They ain't 'arf rich. My word, you should see the 
cheques. There was one for a hundred and two Dounda 
the other day." ^ 

" My I ' said Sue, admiringly. 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 



SS5 



' An' wot's mora, I 'ad to take It to the benk." Peree 
•wdled: 'They got to trast a nh. . yoo kaoir. One* 
got to check off with the cashier, too. and wooUn't one 
catch it if one made a mistake I But that's all right." 
he added, conaoliiigly. ' I fdt a bit shaky aboot it in 
the 



cflntolingly, 
be ginn i n g, 



conceded. " bat one soon gets used to 
business. Not like some fellefs. There's the junior clerk. 
as they call 'im. 'e can't add up for Uttle appfea. . . .' 

Huncote and his father-in-law had skmly divoged 
from insurance into unemployment, thence into -etal and 
raihway woiic. and were now discussing the reco^ runs of 
nilways. Mr. Groby was very learned as to the per- 
formances of the Great Northern and the Great Western, 
which he insisted on making picturesque by continual 
references to the Exeter Mail and the Flying Scotchman : 

" Fifty-seven mile in the hour I Tell yer wot. it opens 
yer eyes t' think o' that, an' a 'undied an' two miks 
without a stop. They can't do that in Germany, can 
they ? • 

He was corrected as to a non-stop run by Roger, whom 
this topic left languid. But Mr. Groby was not languid ; 
he was evidently prepared to pass hours rfismygng railway 
runs, weights of engines, heights of bridges. Indeed, the 
whde of that afternoon was punctuated, whenever Roger 
talked to anybody else, by rumbling references to the 
length of timnels and the depth of cuttings. An interval 
a little later was filled in with fiie-bngades. 

He kept away from the women, for they tended to 
cluster and to talk loudly. The conversation was not 
obstetric, in deference, presumably, to Theresa's virginal 
state, but the hoarse mother had details to confide, mainly 
medicaL Roger couki hear her from time to time : 

" . . . So I stopped the gravy beef as Mrs. Bubwith 
give me, as the doctor said it didn't oughter 'ave meat. 
I just give 'im a drop o' milk with a jwich of citrate of 
soda. . . ." 

" And did that stop it ? " asked Theresa. 



i i 



aSt THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

"No." sud the houK woman. " I didn't find out that 
Ethel, that's my ddeet. give 'im a hit o' kipper at tea." 
Rasentfnl: " I didn't 'ari walk into 'er.' 

Mn. Gtoby contributed reminiscences of the feeding of 
diildren; Sue was excluded as unpcacticaL The last 
*®8w hyd <rf this particular conversation was a differ- 
ence of opinion as to binders, idiatever those were. Now 
Mr. Groby entangled him into a story less hidd than the 
Statistics of rulways. It was a story, well, something 
like this: ^ 

• Wot I was tellin' yer was 'ow 'e k)st 'is |ob ; 'e was 
my nmte. 'e was. It was all akmg the foreman, yw see. 
Red 'aired, 'e was, an' me de mother used t' say 
•CharUe,' she nsed t' say, 'never you trust a red-'aired 
man. . .'" 

"... gettin' thinner and thinner,' said the hoarse 
woman gloomily, as she turned the bal^ over on her 
lap and pulled up its drawers as high as they would go. 

Doctor says 'e's always s'prised to find 'im aUve." 

Mrs. Groby grew comfmting : 

"^ Wile there's life, there's 'ope." 

" So the foreman says to 'im, ' yon marked the sheet 
at ten-forty,' 'e says. 'That's a Be,' my mate says. 
• I ort t' mark it ten-twenty by tights,' 'e says ; ' I let 
Hit firm off twenty minutes 'cos it's my birthday.' The 
foreman, 'e didn't say nothin', and then my mate, 'e 
trusted 'im, 'e did. An', as I was tellin' you, my ole 
mother, she used ter say. ' Charhe,' she used ter sav 
' never you trust . . .'" 

The story grew and became more and more confused. 
Theresa and Mrs. Groby had now come to a sharp differ- 
ence of opinion because Theresa thought the baby too 
young to have gravy beef at all, doctor or no. doctor. 
The difference grew acute. Mrs. Groby feeling that as Sue 
had been given bacon at the age of eight months and 
there she was. " Look at the girl, it ain't done 'er no 'arm " 
there could be nothing against gravy beef. The hoarse 



THE LAND OF DOUBT 357 

name. She remaiked: - Go on. I'fl 'old yer 'ata." 

And so the afternoon wore on. peM«aUe and (raand- 
8«ne. somewhat diicumve. Tea came and was drSS. 

^«. iS! Si*^?^ ^ ^y "'»* 80. and did 

not ga They did not know how to do it, and for hall 

an hour explained how sorry they were that thev could 

notstgr^ Muriel had taken ve^ttkint^rL^. 

Tk"?^' ^ *^ *^^ *' **»« pictures, examined 

the books with a critical air. Theresa worked splendidly 

^.^ did not go. she tried to amuse them while they 

stay^, pe new photographs of Roger were handed 

round and freelymtidsed. There was coUness between 

Sue and Perce from that time on. for he was heard to 

nanark. not quite sotto voce, that they must have been 

selhng off when Roger got his hcTurt. Groby ^ 

consaous of a certain tension in the air, and wSS 

enthusiastic over the photograph : 

" You miKtn't mind wot we says, Roger. A photv- 
graiAs made to be shown, and. as the sayin' go^you 
should let others judge you." 

ti ^* ffi" 1^^^ **^^ ** *^***** ^^* ^^^y laid : - 'Ow 

§10 

TTiey could not Wend, those two. Body and spirit 
were of different essences; he was as foreign to her 
as she was to him. They were in the lists of love, 
champions of two classes. He began to realiae it Sue 
was of a class that is interesf^d in the price of things 
and m material things, in what it can see rather than hi 
what It ran dream, in the scenery and the actor rather 
than m the play, in the building rather than in its grace, 
in big thmgs like cathedrals, town halls, because they are 
big. and particularly if they are new. unless, of couree. 
they are extremely old, which is as good. He began to 
understand their elementary ideas of beauty, their crude 






; J 

5 



^ li 



i 



^1 



3S8 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



idealism; as he suspected this he befl;an to despise them. 
And yet, and yet, a feeling still clung to him that, though 
crude, this idealism was much more vigraons than his own, 
made by culture ^tidions and a little pale. 

Only there it was, there they were, ready to allow lor 
each other, unaUe to do so. One morning, as a surprise. 
Sue appeared in a frock of her own ordering. Nine o'clock, 
and she stood in a mixture of silk and velvet, with a bow 
where there was not a fait of lace, and a rufSe where there 
was no tuck. A frock of defiance, unsupervised by 
Theresa, by the dangerotis Theresa who liked Roger too 
well, by the supercilious Theresa who knew too much. 
This was Sue's own frock, her own idea, her own desire 
to rebel against the other woman, and by herself to 
delight her own man. It was mainly green, because that 
was Sue's idea of what a dark beauty ought to wear. 
That ni|^t as Roger lay awake he thought of Sue. He 
had not discussed dress with her; he seldom discussed 
anything with her now, not having anything to say, 
and he had begun to understand that she, too, felt she 
had nothing to say to him. They married thinldng that 
between them were tastes and thoughts when there were 
only caresses. 

'Vfbat shall we do?" he said. Then he tlwuj^t: 
" We can't go on like this. It's my fault, I thought she'd 
tumble to things. I have not educated her enough. I 
must go on.* 



. CHAPTER THE FOURTH 

SCBNT OF DEAD JONQUILS 

|i 

Roger Huncote walked up and down in the Settlement 
attic. He liked to j,'o thers now and then to think, for 
he was one of those whom the streets disturb and yet 
who cannot think well in a park or in the country. 
People, birds, the blowing wind everything disturbed him. 
He needed walls to cabin his thought. He liked the false 
atmos|diere of the attic, the contrast its heap of stage 
"props" made with the free view of London through the 
dirty window. And there was room to walk up and 
down. He had been there a long time, thinking of a 
little indffent that aftemocm. He had been out with Sue 
after lunch ; they had had tea in the Gardens, and when 
they arrived at Pembroke Square he found that he had 
forgotten his latchkey. 

" Got your key ? " he said to Sue. 

But as he spoke Sue raised the knocker and gave it a 
sharp rat-rat. He was vaguely discomforted, but he wai 
thinking of something else, and only a moment later, 
as the knock was not answered, did he say : " Ring the 
belL' 

Rhoda came to the door ; she seemed a little startled 
and apologetic : " Beg pardon, ma'am ... I thought . . .* 

Rhoda became an eloquent mass of suppressions. And 
quite suddenly Roger's mind was illumined by her imidi- 
cation : of course, Rhoda had thought it was the post- 
man, or a parcel, or something. A hot little rage seized 
him, »nd he found himself too ludd. After all these 

359 



36o 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



months Sue was not yet using her key or the bell. He 
knew her, for he knew her people too well; he knew 
those tenements in St. Panwich, where there are no keys 
and no bells because the house cannot be left, because 
a child or the mother is always at home, because staying 
at home is accounted a sort of virtue. ... It sickened 
him. 

Now in the attic it struck himjthat what was worse 
than that it should sicken him was'that nine months ago 
it would have made him smile. Falling leaves ! He was 
reminded of a tree in the autumn that sheds upon the 
wind dry golden corpses that once were green. It shocted 
Imn. 

" This won't do," he thought. " I really must try." 

He looked about him interestedly, at the cases which 
he knew contained spare pamphlets and books, at half 
a Roman portico and a clump of cloth pohn trees hekl up 
by broomsticks. " I must try," he thought, and instinc- 
tively went to the window to look out over the city. 
There she lay, London, this early July day, gilt and warmi 
with her thousand roofs, so close, so strong that they 
seemed eternal, with her many spires raising up towaitis 
the pale heaven her ever-renascent hope. He loved her 
as she clustered between her hills. He loved her silver 
girdle, the Thames, which he could just see beyond the 
$lQpe of the Strand. He could feel the spirit of the dtv 
that every day lifts those whom it elects from White- 
chapel to Park Lane, that spirit, truest of democrats, 
that rates not a man by his achievement, but yet his s<m 
by his father's achievement. He laughed : the spirit of 
London tcwn, was it not after all, when you thought 
of the sleepy, obstinate spirit of the country— was it not 
the. spirit of social promotion ? 

He sat down upon a case. 

"Well, what shaL' I do?" And. of oouree. at once he 
thought of pictures. Of Uterature a little later, and even 
thea xzuisic had come before. For Roger Hunoote, with 



■■ 



■i'- 






SCENT OF DEAD JONQUILS 



S6t 



all his intelligeiioe and his delicaqr, was of ha period, 
of a time when men thought that artistic cnlture was 
the root of refinement. He had been to Oxfoid . 
which was just a little more than having been to the 
Polytechnic. His parents gave him a first-class education, 
and he never got over it. He thought of Sue under- 
standing the arts as he did, of Sue so developed as to 
tell at sight a Rembrandt from a Maude Goodman. She 
would be more Uke him then, he told himself in innocent 
priggishness, and he could love her again. He wanted 
her to be like him : that was a trace of the divine egotism 
in virtue of which God made man in His own image. 

He thought of the dress, too, that moniine^'s drc-^, gieen 
silk and green velvet. He must not suffer again lr;« that. 
He felt quite sorry for himself for having to stax that! 
But what shouki he do ? Could he help her to uress ? 
Theresa ? Well, of .course, there was Theresa, but some- 
thing new in him shrank ; he did not want to (hag Theresa 
into it any more. He did not tell himself that, for he was 
like most men, unable to take a decision without deceiving 
himself first, without assimiing a righteous motive. " No," 
he thought, proudly, " I must do it myself." At once 
he thought of bl ae coats and skirts. It was a great relief 
to think of that, and he had a vision of Sue always trim 
in blue coats and darts with . . . with . . . well, 
what did they call that white thing women wore under the 
coat, a thing with a low neck ? And patent leather boots, 
of course. It sounded a Ettle hot for summer, and he 
vaguely remembered having seen Theresa in something 
made of hnen, something daret-coloured. but it looked 
rather crumpled, and he vaguely hated her that day. 
• Stm," he thought, grudgingly, " she must have linen for 
the siunmer." And now he had a vision of Sue, looking 
very fxssh, all in white drill, with white shoes, and no 
bangles. It did not strike him to wonder whether that 
stuff wouW crumple. He was a man. He saw his wifa 
as a fashion-plate 



; ji 



h 



36« 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



»H 



ri 



Also she must speak differenUy. True, she had unproved 
a good deal, bat ... a governess, just for an hour 
in the mornings. Sue was no longer referring to " them 
things," but every now and then, when the Cwtoey crept 
out and she said " haouse " and " naow," he suffered. He 
would take her to the National GaUeiy. WeU, perhaps not 
at once. They might go to the Tate first. She would like 
the Tate, and it would lead her upwards. He thought it 
could hardly lead her any way but upwards, if he remem- 
bered the Tate. And a concert or two, not too classical. 
She must read a bit, too. Now he thought of it, she never 
seemed to read anything ; she only looked at the pictures 
in the paper. They ought to read together, it would do 
him good as well as her. Verse, for instance; they 
might begin with Tennyson and then by degrees get on to 
poetry. He felt quite inflamed and neariy fell in love 
a ^un with the ascending Sue. . . . 

It proved quite easy, th it governess business. Sue 
roerelysaid:"IknowIdor ^alk properly." He tried to 
ctoak it by telling her that i governess would read with 
her. But Sue was still humbk she wanted to learn. And 
it was rather fun getting the governess from a place in 
Maiigaret Street where apparer y they would supply him 
with a governess, or a chief tm. ch, or any other domestic. 
It made him feel very jrown up, as if he had been long 
married and were providing for his nursery. After all he 
had a chUd in the nursery, he thought, and for a moment 
felt fond, then doubtful and his fondness vanished. Miss 
Ponkey, when she came, which she now did every morning 
for an hour after Ethel had told Sue what to order, dearly 
considered that she was accessoiy to hiishing up a Gnirt 
scandal, a mesalliance in high life. She got <m very well 
with Sue, for her attitude to high life, as represented by 
the Morning Post, one day late, which her mother, th« 
vicaress, sent her every day from Hertfoixishire, corre- 
sponded exactly with that of Sue as represented by the 
novelettes. Ri^er had never seen 1^- reading those ; be 



SCENT OF DEAD JONQUILS 



^ 



thought he knew all her secrets, but tiiere were scores 
of novdettes in an old hat-box and one of them, " Sir 
Lucius and His Love," had been wept upon once or 
twice. Roger felt better when Miss Ponkey took over 
the responsibility for Sue's rise in life. She was so 
ccnnforting. 

" You see," said Roger, airily, " she's met very few 
peof^ . . . living in the colonies . . ." 

" I quite understand," said Miss Ponkey. 

" She's been isolated," he went on. " And one does pick 
things up from the servants." 

" I quite understand," said Miss Ponkey. 

To the very end of their intercourse Roger never obtained 
from Miss Ponkey more than that she quite understood. 
He vidently hoped that she did not. 

But still there was to be chaos in his mind that night, 
for Miss Ponkey had not yet been sought and found. It 
was a mythical Miss Ponkey filled his mind. Now he had 
to go down, for at seven o'clock, that hour so cunnii^^y 
calculated for meetings as to prevent one from having 
dinner, he must sit on the platform while a Labour Member 
discoursed upon nature study and the democracy. 

It seemed strange, for he had been so little at the Settle- 
ment of late months. Churton was still there; so was 
Piatt, a little worn because the dissolution had not yet 
happened. Mrs. Ramsey had shifted some of her interest 
in the white slave traffic on to the enquiries as to 606 which 
had just made the Medical Omgress into a society function ; 
Miss Miskin was no longet Miss Miskin, for she had mar- 
ried a poet of nineteen who often came to the Settlement 
and recited to St. Panwich sonnets about golden galleons 
and pomegranates. 

The Labour Member was not very interesting. He was 
one of the now defunct Liblabs, anxioiis to be a gentle- 
man among labour men and a working-man in the House 
of Commons. He quoted abundantly, of course, Thoreau, 
Richard Jefieries, Gilbert White. There was an excursus 



364 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



ttpon gudening. But gardemi« fatally led him into 

Modo^ byways for as St. Ptowich ihifted it» feet and 
coughed. theLiblab found himself drawn to the allotments 
on waste lands in London destined for the deserving poor 
and perhaps for the others. The land question h^pwed 
then setUed ; it burgeoned into housing, into drink. The' 
country-side was abashed. By swifter and swifter tiansi- 
tions the Liblab fastened upon class contrasts, the essence 
of class : «-«»»« 

"I'm not one of those Socialists." he went on, with a 

determined air of trying to get a laugh. " I don't want 

to do away with classes. I only want to make them 

fluid. He grew bemgnant : " Man is. not evil, it's sodetv 

makes him so. One has only to know one another to see 

one another's good points. I always teU the wife that. 

when she complains of the neighbours. But classes want 

a bit of mbdng. They only want doing away with the 

water^ht doors between their respective spheres. When 

I m Prune Minister there shall be scholarships to allow all 

mce working-girb to marry Piccadilly Johnnies. (Uughter.) 

They aren't so bad. the PiccadiUy Johmiies. andl they 

had mce sensible girls ..." 

He suddenly perceived Huncote. who sat six feet off 
jwth a burning blush upon his face. He paused. The 
Liblab had been at the Settlement before, and he remem- 
bered something. He went on talking about mixing the 
classes, and being a practised Member of ParliamMrt did 
not have to think of what he was saying. Suddenly he 
remembered the story. Of course, that was the n»n • 
Huncote yes, that was he. His heart swelled : what ar^ 
oratorical chance I Suddenly the M.P. seemed to grow 
^rger Witii a coronating sweep of the arm he pointSi to 
Huncote and shouted : i~*"w« lu 

"And what better evidence d'you want than the case 
which IS m your midst ? " ^^ 

Hmicote shrank: he fch he was the case, and j«t could 
Qot run away. He was paralysed. ^^ 



SCENT OF DEAD JONQUILS 36ft 

"HwB you have among yoa a young man, nvrtnrad in 
one^our most ancient universities. A young nuio 
twpected and hononred of all who know him in St. Pan 
wjch . . • There was a little cheering and dapping 
ftwn the front ranks, who understood the connection 
between this and Huncote. 

" -Hiis young man did not seek a bride fa Mayfair. No, 
Mr. Huncote. if 1 may name him " (abundant appUuse), 

grew aware of the necessity for the reunion of the classes. 
This yowjg man towards whom I poirt " (and he did point) 

wedded a daughter of the people . . .- Huncote 
leaped up and tumbled rather than jumped from the plat- 
fwrn. But as he went, head down, eyes half-shut, the out- 
sta«tched arm of the M.P. still foUowed him. hokling out a 
phantom wreath of laurel, speeding his flight with these 
words : m. Huncote is one of the men of whom we 
want more. 

That evening, much later, when he had drunk more than 
mual to try and forget, he had a hateful Uttle row with 
Sue. She had been to the gas company to complain about 
the gas-rmg m his bedroom on which he heated milk 
when he csune home very late. He went mto her bedroom 
to teU her it stiJI did not work and to ask whether she had 
gcme round to the company. 

"Idid go," said Sue. reluctantly, "but I foigot the 
ad<fres8, and so when I nearly got there I couldn't find the 
Idace. It was too late to go back." 

" Couldn't find the address ? " said Roger. « But why 
didn' t you look into the telephone book ? " 

" I didn't want to telephone," said Sue. 

" I don't mean that." he said, acidly. " I mean why 
didn't you look in the telephone book and go to the addrew 
it gave ? " 

She looked at him, still blank : " But if I'd gone home to 
took mto the telephoae book 1 might as weU have got the 
address of! their biU." vc gw «■ 

He felt a rage rise fa him : 



366 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



" Didn't it itiikB you. to fo into a shop or a cilkiffioe 
and look at the book?* 

"Well.' sdd Sue. defendve. 'how was I to know they 
were on the telephone ? * 

He cDd not repfy. It would have been impoMibly 
snobbish to tell her that in her new worid everjrfaody 
she could possibly want, whether pobUe or private, would 
be (m the telephone. He did not think he conld explain 
that. As he went to sleep be thought again of tUi nfadng 
of the classes. Oil and water, the Liblab had called them. 
Yes, you could mix them by shaking them up together, 
hard, and nobody knew what the cH and water feh about 
that. But how quickly they separated when yoo no 
kmger shook them I 

§2 

Yes, he had relied too much upon environment. He 
had not been precise enough, and rather bitterly he won- 
dered whether he would feel as he did if Miss Ponkey and 
all that she implied had come nine months ago. But he 
knew he must look forward, not backwards. That, though 
it might seem too late, it might not be too late. At the 
same time he knew that his store of patience was small. 
He thought of the dress, of the difficulty with the knocker, 
of the difficulty with the gas company ; he dug up from 
his memory these cruel trifles, tumblers, jam, the wearing 
of jewellery, little things that strike so much deeper than 
the worship of a difi»:ent god. He was beginning to 
wonder whether he could stick it, whether, indeed, he 
could remain one of the men of whom we want more. 

He could, it seemed. One afternoon, a little later, 
pursuing the plan made in the attic, they went to the 
Tate Gallery. It was a soft, filmy day, and the Thames 
outside criticised the Turners. Sue went by his side 
respectfully, a little awed because they had made her leave 
her parasol, a ceremonial thing to do. For some time they 
wandered in the Gallery while Hnncote forgot that he was 



SCENT OF DEAD JONQUILS 



^ 



edncating hit wilt. HtlMdnotbeoitotlieTstefcrfiw 



or six yean, and it 



was queer to reoognfae to many 



pictures fron pictore postcards. Ouistnaas annnab, or " The 
HtvJred Best Pictures for a Worldnglfan.* He reooc- 
nised -TT» Doctor- and -Derby Dny.* ... Why I 
It WM Uke foing to one of Shakcqware's plays and 
disoov«ring that it was made op entirely of quotations. He 
p*^ dubious, too, for his taste wu maturer ♦!«•» it had 
been five years before, and be began to wonder whether an 
afternoon at the Tate was educational or depading. 
Still . . . you must crawl belote you run ... all 
that sort of thhig. 

They stopped before a picture of three Uttle cbiJdien 
dandng. They looked Uke boiled veaL 

" They're having a good time," said Sue. 

He did not reply, and she felt she had said the wrong 
thing. She wished she had asked Miss Fonkey what to 
say^when you looked at a picture. She feH that -oo" 
or -very nice" was inadequate. So she said nothing, 
when she was dragged from Turner to Turner and tokl that 
a vision of Venice might be seen on MiUbank by an artist's 
eye. Indeed, Roger went on for a long time, trying to 
place Turner, which he found difficult ; he coukl not help 
being pleased by the flaming opals of the man's work, and 
yet he suspected the brilliant mists that Turner saw at 
the Nore of being a trick, a clever discovery, a sort of 
American stunt. When he had done with his criticism 
and tried to make Sue remember the " Nocturne of Batter- 
sea Bridge," and make her say that Whistler was rather 
like Turner, she remarked : 

" WTiy are they so shiny ? " 

This did not exasperate him as much as it ought to have, 
for he was able to explain the changes that had come about 
in glazing since the sixteenth century, to talk of painting 
upon the white as opposed to direct lajing on. And so 
they wandered on, she very respectful, a Uttle bored, but 
expecting only to be bored because this in a way was 



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368 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



lessons. He tried to detain her before a nude, but she turned 
away with a scarlet face. WeU, it was a very nude nude. 
Leighton's. It embarrassed Sue horribly. It was all 
very weU for Roger to caU it the bath of Sikey, but it 
looked like .a lady taking off her chemise, and she did not 
think it nice. He teased her about it until she turned. 

"You wouldn't Uke me photographed in mv bath, 
would you?" ^ 

He foimd that difficult to answer, and was driven into 
saying he would be quite willing to hang a nude picture 
of her in the drawing-room if it was beautiful, • which he 
did not mean at all. Then he grew angry with her because 
she had made him say sometldng he did not mean. And 
he felt priggish and superior. 

They went on from picture to picture, Sue remarking at 
intervals that one might think they were walking out of 
the frame. She developed enthusiasm for the portrait of 
a hot ham, one of those steaming hams whose influence, 
together with that of cabbage, can never be restricted to 
the kitchen. He tried to drag her away, but she w^ 
enthralled. 

" My ! " she said, " it makes you feel quite hungiy." 

For a moment he was hopeful : after all that was not 
quite pictorial emotion, but he was furnishing her mind, he 
must not forget that ; so he made her repeat a few names : 
" The Doctor." by Luke FUdes, " Derby Day," by Frith. 
He even tried to lodge the names c' Adrian Stokes and of 
Robert Brough in her mind. She was obedient. From 
time to time as the afternoon went on he caught a murmur 
behind him : " The Doctor " by Frith, " Derby Day " bv 
Robert Brough. ..." ■> j j 

These good intentions were maddening. He could not 
keep her away from details. In a large scene it seemed 
impossible to make her see more than one character in a 
comer, who was pouring out wine " as like as life." " The 
Death of Chatterton" was obviously to her a bit of 
cinema. 



SCENT OF DEAD JONQUILS 



369 



"My I he's poisoned hisself," she remarked in a 
whisper. 

He was saddened less by Sue, perhaps, than by this 
environing atmospheie of mediocrity, of obviousness. 
A N.hole crowd of painters who, it seemed, most of their 
lives had crawled upon the earth, never having the worm- 
like decency to get underground. True, there was the 
Stokes " Autumn Evening." fading hght and dying brilliance, 
night wedded with the day that tarries on the striated 
white slopes. Yes, just a few, but how dreadful to feel 
it was almost accident. He grew bitter and thought— 
sometimes the good Chantrey nods. 

They were tired, they felt dusty. The air had that 
sharp, resounding feel which it always has in picture 
galleries. They dragged their feet, for picture galleries 
have the hardest fkiors in the world. They had 
nearly gone round when they reached " King Cophetua 
and the Beggar-maid." Without knowmg why, they 
stood there for a long time, touched perhaps by the 
romance of it— the girl with her frightened eyes incredulous, 
and the warrior king abased, humble, and transfigured 
with his doffed crown. He told her the story, quoted the 
lines from " Romeo and JuUet " : " Young Adam Cupid, 
he that shot so trim. When King Cophetua loved the 
beggar-maid." He told her the story, and just at the very 
end, while she stood listening to his words that grew 
romantic, while she sought to improve her mind, he suddenly 
saw an appUcation. " I'm Cophetua," he thought. For 
a moment the knowledge was intoxicating. He fdt 
uplifted by the dofl&ng of his crown. For a fleeting second 
he understood the pride that lies in Christian humility. 

" And what happened next ? " asked Sue. 

" Well," said Roger, " they got married." 

" Oh, yes,*^ saki Sue. " Wonder how they got on ? " 

It hurt him, that question, though Sue did not api^y 
the »tuation to herself. It was a bitterly amusing idea 
anyhow. All these matches of romance, how did they 

24 



370 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



work ? Did Pygmalion ever quarrel with Galatea when he 
got a bill ? 

Dr. — Pygmalion, Esq. : 

1 chiton 200 drachma, 

1 himation (Mitylene model) 400 drachma. 

He thought of Romeo and Juliet, too. Had they Uved 
and married he could foresee that with tempers such as 
theirs there were endless possibilities. Notably the 
Capulets and the Montagues would have been the most 
troublesome relations-in-law you could imagine. 

They went out. For a moment in the hall they paused 
where in a basin the Uve goldfish go round and round, 
processional, patient, and eternal. 

" Those fish have a dull life," said Sue, 

He did not reply. He was thinldng that anyhow 
they were aUve. He saw the sim shine through their 
undulating fins. It thrilled him after so much dead paint. 

He wondered a little later how much he had drawn 
from this visit, from others which he forced upon her 
to the National Gallery, to Dulwich. He even took her 
to the Soane Museum and tried to make her like the 
Hogarths, which she thought very coarse. There was music, 
too, a few concerts of the Ughter kind which admitted 
"Carmen" and even "Pomp and Circumstance." She 
liked these, for she could catch the time, and soon maddened 
him by humming " Habanera " all ovei the house. But 
resolutely he administered " 1812," and, by means of a 
vioUnist, Ernst's "Airs Russes." She went on gloomily, 
resignedly. One's got to know i\ese things when one's 
a lady, not dropping one's h's, talking about Shakespeare, 
having one's boots made for one, and there you were. 
She quoted to herself from the posters : " It's so simple," 
And yet she was unhappy sometimes, for she felt that 
she had said the wrong thing. She never managed to 
say what she felt. She was always saying what she 
thought she ought, and she always thought wrong. When 



SCENT OF DEAD JONQUILS 371 

she fdt at all she always felt right, but that she could not 
tell. One afternoon, when they were having tea at the 
Carlton, she was moved almost to tears by an arrange- 
ment from " La Boh^me." She wondered why Roger got 
so angry and said that Puccini's music embodied the 
passions of a literary hairdresser. Still, she supposed 
one did get blown up now and then when one was being 
educated. 

§3 

" But still," said Roger, " I don't understand why you 
didn't have him arrested." 

Sue looked mutinous, and went on making bread pills. 

" There wasn't much in the bag," she said. 

" That's not what I'm asking you ; you tell me this 
man matched your bag outside Barker's, and you did 
nothing ? " 

" He ran away," said Sue. 

"But you said he didn't run very fast owing to the 
crowd." 

No reply. Roger was interested as well as irritated. 
He persisted. 

" There was a policeman near, you say ? " 

" Oh, well, perhaps the poor man needed the money," 
said Sue. 

" Very hkely ; still, I won't lecture you about the right 
to steal. Was that why you let him off ? " 

She made an effort to tell a lie, and with her usual in- 
capacity failed. 

" Makes a lot of trouble," she said, shortly. 

" Trouble ? What trouble ? " 

"You've got to go to the police court, and, there's 
no knowing, you might get into the papers. They photo- 
graph you, they do." 

Roger felt dense. 

" But whatever does that matter ? You've done nothing 
wrong ! " 



372 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



" Makes a lot of trouble," Sue replied, with an air of 
elucidation. Then, feeling this inadequate, she said: 
"My mother. . . ." She paused, and Roger had a 
second of satisfaction. Miss Ponkey had expelled " Ma " 
and substituted " My mother." 

" Well ? " 

"My mother always says, whatever you do, whatever 
happens, don't get into the papers." 

Huncote thought this over for some time. It was very 
curious. He understood in a vague way. He had heard 
something like this before in St. Panwich. Yes, they did 
think it was disgraceful to get into the newspapers. Why ? 
he wondered. Was it that they were never quite sure 
who was witness and who was prisoner? Or just that 
they had a sort of animal fear of being watched by 
the powerful lest the powerful should do them some 
harm ? Rabbits run to earth. A humorous idea struck 
him. 

" Oh ! " he said. " I see. But lots of people don't mind 
getting into the papers. Look at the breach of promise 
cases." 

"^ That's different," said Sue. " One has one's rights." 

" But surely you've as much right to your bag as to a 
promised husband? More, in fact. A bag's more per- 
manent." 

" It's different," said Sue. " When a girl's been made a 
fool of, don't you think she wants everybody down her 
way to know she's had her rights ? " 

He laughed : " Oh ! A sort of warning to the next ? " 

" How can you ? " said Sue. She looked rather offended 
one might make jokes about marriage, but not about 
proper pride. 

He stuck to his point : 

" And I s'pose that the published damages also serve as 
an advertisement for No. 2 ? " 

" I think you're horrid," said Sue. But she smiled. 

It was only later, as he thought again, that this strange 



SCENT OF DEAD JONQUILS 373 

inconsistency struck him. One might not go into court to 
prosecute a thief, but one might prosecute a lover. Was 
that because in the first case one had had something 
taken from one and in the second had graciously given 
it? Or some other obscure motive? Or was it more 
simple, that damages could vanquish the reluctance of 
the rabbits to come out and be seen ? Probably. Prob- 
ably too the whole thing rested on a deep distrust of print, 
print that represents the demand note for rates, the srnn- 
mons. all sorts of uncomfortable things. He did not hke 
it : this was not reserve, it was the fear of the savage. 
For a moment he wondered whether, paradox, or not, 
there was not more refinement in the actresses who 
allowed themselves to be photographed to advertise a 
dentifrice. 

He thought of this reserve later in the evening, though 
they had set it aside to read poetry. He had hesitated a 
good deal ; he did not know how to begin. He believed 
that in the people's heart slumbers a great desire for 
melody, and it would be a pity to read the wrong things. 
Cadoresse had spoken to him about that at the Settlement, 
when he hung about, electioneering. He remembered that 
the Frenchman had said that one could always work on 
women with a bit of poetry, if other methods failed. Cado- 
resse had even quoted some poetry which, he said, he found 
most efficacious, but it was not the sort of poetry Huncote 
liked. He vaguely remembered that it was rather volup- 
tuous, and he did not posses." that gilt French voice. So 
he thought he had. better please himself. 

You will figure them in the drawing-room on a hot July 
night. Sue is sitting upon the sofa, very dark against the 
gay chintzes. She cannot be seen very well, for there 
is little light save from the moon that makes a broad, 
pale bar across the carpet. At only one point is the 
light bright— by a shaded lamp. In its little golden sun 
hangs Roger's head, very black against the light, its profile 
determined and fine, eyes bent upon the book, half conscious 



374 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



of the sturdy figure that dutifully listens as it plays with 
its fingers. He reads . . . Blake : 

... On the shadows of the moon, 

Climbing thro* Night's highest noon : 

In Time's ocean failing, cUown'd : 

In aged ignorance profound. 

Holy and cold, I cUpp'd the wings 

Of all sublunary things. 

And in the depths of my dungeons 

Closed the father and the sons. . . . 

She listened dutifully to that poem. Words hurtled 
in her head ; " mandrake " and a funnier one still, " her- 
famodite." While she wondered who or what was in the 
depths of dungeons she was still oppressed by the beginning 
of the poem. She could not see that a caterpillar on a 
leaf could remind anybody of a mother's grief. It lasted 
such a long time; Roger went on reading, intoxicating 
himself with the vision of horror and holies, with the 
dream stuff of the phrases. He was all thrilled and 
hot, for in Blake he could always glimpse heaven and hell 
combatant, as Blake may have gUmpsed them through 
a glass darkly, as Verlaine, through a green mist of absinthe, 
as Francis Thompson, with a brain excited and entrails 
twisting in starvation. He read for a long time, he forgot 
her. Rising and falling with the rhythm, he dragged his 
pupil through tales of harlots who once were vii^ns, 
to the gate of pearl and gold, through the pageant of azure- 
winged angels, ecstatic suns, stars blinded with their own 
radiance. Accidentally he read her the poem "To the 
Jews," and as he read came closer to earth. It was amusing, 
this song of London Boroughs. He stopped a little before 
the end : " D'you like it ? " he asked, suddenly. 

Sue did not reply. She remembered two extraordinary 
lines: 

. . . What are those golden builders doing 
Near mournful, ever-weeping Paddington 7 . . . 

This soiuided familiar, but queer. She had a dim idea 
that they might be extending Riddington station, but 



SCENT OF DEAD JONQUILS 375 

fortunately dared not say so ; indeed, she had no need to 
comment, for her husband remarked : 

" H'm, perhaps that's hardly what I ought to read to 
you, though, of course, you feel the rhythm, the music, 
the envoi ? " 
^' Oo, yes," said Sue, " only I don't understand always." 
" No," he said, " many of us don't. You might as well 
ask to understand the mystery of life and death. It's 
just an emotion. But I oughtn't to have read you that. 
I think. Now what ought I to read you ? " He picked 
up the Oxford Book of Verse, opened it at random : " Poe ; 
yes, Poe. Oh, bother. They haven't put ' The Raven ' 
in. stiU. ..." He read her "Annabel Lee." Sue 
felt much comforted; she liked the jingle. She was a 
little barbaric; she would have liked Indian music on 
the tomtoms. He read on : 

. . . For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams 

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee ; 
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes 

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee ; 
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side 
Of my darting— my darling— my life and my bride. 

In the sepulchre there by the sea. 

In her tomb by the sounding sea. 

He looked up ; there were tears in her eyes. She said : 
" Read it again, not all, just that last bit." 
Thrilled by the love cry he shrank a little as she said 
" the last bit," but still he read, and when he looked up, 
" in her tomb by the sounding sea " still echoing in his 
ears, he saw that her eyes were wet. His heart grew big and 
heavy with hope. He was excited, he wanted to read 
more poetry, he wanted to please her more, to do more 
than bring tears to her eyes. And so he grew cunning, 
he searched the book. A few pages further was Tcnnj'son. 
He knew she would like Tennyson. Had she not at once 
picked up : " Tis better to have loved and lost than never 
to have loved at all " ? He opened the selected Tenn>-son 
at random, as he did not find what he wanted in the Oxford 



376 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



book. He chanced upon the poenri "To the Queen." 
He read on for a while, but it felt so dull. He stopped at 
the lines : 

. . . And statesmen at her council met 
Who knew the seasons, when to take 
Occasion by the hand, and make 

The bounds of freedom wder yet. . . 

He suddenly felt that this was not enough, he must 
force her to be articulate. 
" Sue," he said, " what does all that make you think of ? " 
She seemed startled. If he was going to question her 
well : " Oo." she said. " I don't know. Solemn." 

"That's not bad." said Roger, encouragingly. "This 
is not the first bit of Tennyson I've read you." (And he 
did not notice that he had said " a bit of Tennyson." while 
he shrank when she said " a bit of Poe.") " That's not 
bad, what does it make you think of ? " 

Sue tried very hard, then she said : " I hardly know. 
Funny sort of big place." 
" Big place ? What sort of place ? " 
" I d'know ; well, something like the town hall at St. 
Panwich, with the red plush and the chandeliers." 

He stared at her. " Sue," he said. " what's happened to 
you ? You've criticised England between 1850 and the 
Jubilee of 1887." 

She did not reply. He did not press his advantage. He 
wondered whether this was a fluke. WeU. he would see 
and he read on. He read her " The Lady of Shalott." after 
explaining briefly who were Lancelot and Galahad. She 
seemed unmoved, and "Mariana" merely caused her to 
ask why, in poetry, people were always wishing they were 
dead. He knew there was a certain amount of reason 
m that complaint, and when he tried to explain he dis- 
covered how difficult it might be to explain anything. She 
had already been troublesome when he read " To Anthea," 
and tried to guess at what Herrick meant by : 

. . . Bid me to live, and I will live 
Thy protestaat to be. . . . 



SCENT OF DEAD JONQUILS 377 

She was liking Tennyson, though, so much that she 
insisted upon trying to leam by heart : 

Como into the garden, Maud, 

For the black bat, Night, haa flown. 

Come into the garden, Maud, 
I am hero at the gate alone ; 

And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad. 
And the musk ol the rose is blown. . . 

As the evening waned, he ^'rcw more venturesome. He 
dipped into Swinburne, into Whitman. But he felt she did 
not like them, especially Whitman. Swoons in poppy beds 
and women with giant breasts . . . well, it was not 
quite proper. 

" Sue," he asked, at last, " is this the first time you've 
ever read any poetry or had any read to you ? " 

" You seem to think I don't know anything," she said, 
rather touchily. " A lady came along years ago and she 
gave me something by ... I don't quite remember 
the name. I think it's Eliza WUcox. I always did like 
poetry, especially the funny kind." 

" Funny ? " asked Roger. He reflected that humorous 
verse was not so common. 

" Yes," she said, " there was a very funny one I heard 
once at a social. I learnt it by heart." 

" D'you remember it ? " asked Roger, curious. 

"Not much of it," said Sue. "It was called 'The 
Wreck of the Raspberry Jam,' it was. Here's a bit I 
remember : 

One chap was discoursing on Darwin, and said ; 

' The professor was right through and through. 
We did spring from monkeys.' Another one said : 

' I believe it when I look at you.' " 

She stopped. " There's some more, but I've forgotten it." 

" Oh," said Roger, " it doesn't matter." 

She looked at him quickly : " You don't like it ? " 

" Well," he began, attempting indulgence, " it's hardly 

. . ." His attempt failed. "After what we've been 

reading to-night ... Oh, Sue, it's dreadful, dreadfuL 



378 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



Oh, Sue. don't you understand ? This sort of stuff .• . . 
Oh, I don't want to be superior. Only . . . that tit 
for tat, that sort of cheap answer. Tt's vulgar, it's Gxkney. 
Oh. Sue. this is dreadful, dreadful 1 " 

" I don't see anything dreadful in it." 

Roger made a despairing sound. Sue was hurt, so his de- 
jection angered her. She hated him just then as one hates 
a dog upon v/hose paw one has trodden. She was vicious. 

" Tell you what, it's a good deal more decent than the 
broad-breasted what you call it you were reading about." 

" Whitman," said Roger, gloomily. 

" If you ask me. I call it horrid," said Sue. 

" I didn't ask you." he snarled. 

At once he felt abased. A Cockney answer from him ! 
This was contagious. It was not enough that slie should 
have sold him sliort-weight happiness ; now she was going 
to degrade him in his own eyes. For a moment he thought 
of her as a vampire flourishing as he withered. That gave 
him a thrill of martyrdom. But he was too young to be a 
martyr ; he was stiU a lover ; he wanted to take, not give. 
And here was Sue picking up Iiis phrase. 

" Only thought you'd like to know." 

And he actually replied : 

" Thank you for nothing." 

And she automatically said : " Don't thank me." 

And he thought : " It's a longish way from St. Panwich to 
Pembroke Square, but it seems shorter the other way about." 

He leapt to his feet ; he felt the need for activity. He 
switched on the light. For a moment they remained 
standing before each other, silent and inimical. It was 
not thav they had differed about poetry; it was worse. 
It was that they found themselves entirely parted by their 
tastes. And one could not average, one could not compro- 
mise between Herrick and " The Wreck of the Raspberry 
Jam." It seemed horribly serious to him, who thought 
that Uterature must march with love ; serious to her, who 
in a difference of opinion percdved assumption of supe- 



SCENT OF DEAD JONQUILS 379 

riority. He was auperior ; she liked to think that, but he 
must not make her feel it. She wanted to be the eternal 
female, following hor man and pretending that she led him. 

" Good-night," she said, suddenly. 

He heard her run upstairs. It was less than a minute 
before eleven, and he watched the long hand of the clock 
travel ; it went so slowly. Now that Sue had gone the 
place looked so queer, so unlike a battlefield, with its 
bright chintzes, its pastoral prints upon the blue and white 
paper. The faded peace of the transported eighteenth 
century was about him. But in him no peace. No anger 
now, but an immense dejection. He felt with John 
Davidson : " I see that nothing's right ; I hope to die 
to-night." (As is customary in poets. Vide Sue.) 
Hopeless. They could never understand each other. 
There they were. For ever. It was no use getting cngry 
about it. Better try and make the best of it. He smiled 
vaguely : didn't Mrs. Groby say that every cloud had a 
silver lining? H*; laughed. There wasn't much silver 
lining to be seen to-night. Then weariness fell heavier 
upon him. Slowly he filled his pipe and lit it, but he had 
smoked too much and it did not quiet him. He thought : 
" I'll go to bed. After all, one can always sleep and escape 
the sleep of life where too many dreams come." 

As the door closed behind him he heard the clock strike 
eleven. How swift his thoughts had been ! Everything 
was swift about him now : he undressed ; he did not even 
brush his hair or wash, he wanted only to sleep. Almost at 
once he was in blackness. He was uneasy, he stirred. It 
was oppressive, the hot July night and the calling silence 
beyond. As he shifted he remembered the horrible lines 
of Irene McLeod : 

Here I lie on • feather bed. 

With a feather pillow beneath my head, 

From my feet up to my d^n 

I feel my body sinking in ; 

And though I writhe and turn about 

I cannot Uft my spirit out. . . 



( 



ft 



_ / 



38o 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



First upon his right side and then upon his left, when his 
cheek had crumpled the pillow. Then no ' ^nger upon his 
left, for he had smoked too much, and his heart woiild beat. 
He was all nerves now, and the blackness seemed less ; he 
felt feverish. A star stared at him ; he drew the sheet 
over his head to blot it out, but still his heart beat and 
the sheet made a rustling against his ear. He felt hot, 
oppressed. What was Sue domg ? he wondered. He 
heard no &)und in the other room. He wondered whether 
she vras awake. He remembered that other time when he 
had found her crying. Perhaps she was crying now. Well, 
he couldn't help it. He couldr't do anything for her, any 
more than she could for him. They'd have to settle down 
together and make the best of things, that was all. live a 
Uttle more separately. But as he lay so, the sheet harsh 
against his feverish cheek, this idea of independence chilled 
him. He was like one of the freed slaves after the War of 
Secession, wondering what to do with his freedom. And a 
little pity ran through him too, that she should so be left. 

He started. He thought he had heard a faint knock. 
He listened. All his sinews tightened : it did not come 
again. He was almost sure she had knocked at his door. 
and through his anxiety ran an awful consciousness that he 
wished she wovdd knock again. He listened, but still 
there was no sound save through the open window the 
soxighing of the night wind in the trees. With sharpened 
senses he heard many sounds now, horses moving in the 
mews, distant train rumblings at Addison Road, and 
subtler sounds, the cracking of wood, the movements in 
the fabric of the house that go on interminable as it decays. 
Through all that he listened for the soimd of a knock. 

It did not come. He was conscious in himself of a 
struggle, a complex struggle, an insurgent hope that all 
might be well, fear lest again something cruel and vulgar 
might come, and, above all, anxiety to end the present 
anxiety. It was as if some incorporeal thing tugged at 
him. He leapt out of bed. He was curiously detached. 



SCENT OF DEAD JONQUILS 



381 






for he noticed the cold floor against his feet. He pulled 
the door open. There, framed in the doorway, like a 
ghost in her nightgown, stood Sue. In the moonUght her 
feet upon the dark carpet were as those of a corpse. She 
stood, not looking at him, with Uttle dark hands clasped 
against her breast, abandoned, suppUant. She did not 
say anything as he seized her, drew her in. Nor did he 
know what he w.nted to say. Perhaps nothing ; perhaps 
he was merely trying to reconquer by emotion what his 
intellect rejected. ... 

She was all pliant in his arms and she too said nothing. 
She knew only that she had been very unhappy for a long 
time, and that in his arms everythhig seemed all right. 
She was passive ; she did not even hold him to her, but 
just yielded herself in his arms. She felt touched with 
guilt, as if once she had refused herself to him. She wanted 
into his hands to remit herself, into his hands. . . . 

And now, still silent and close-clasped they lay in each 
other's arms ; unquestioning, unexplaining, they so lay ; 
trembling lovers, they clasped between them a watchful 
shadow. They could see it as they clasped and kissed, 
the indecent shadow of despair, daunting, and grinning, 
and cold. They hated it, seeing it so well, and for its 
despite they clasped' closer, strove to see naught save 
each other. Appealing against the sentence of despair, 
they fought the shadow. Roger found himself closmg 
his eyes tight to blot out the thing that would not go. 
She knew too, for suddenly her passivity deserted her ; 
she flung imploring arms about his neck. She was 
begging him impossibly to love her still when with fled 
thoughts they were alone in a renewed world. They 
were each other's then, and conscious that each one was 
the other's, conquest and conqueror in one. He knew her 
as he had never known her before, the tenderness of her, her 
pathetic grace, the sea-deep blackness of her hair. . . . 
Conquest rather than sacrifice, and determination by 
mutual conquest to efface the hanging thing that watched. 



382 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



So, tortured, he held her, perhaps that she might no longer 
herself be but become him, become a " them," faultless in 
each other's eyes because made of both. Later, even such 
thoughts as those grew too transcendental. They knew 
only that the woe of Ufe had turned away, shrinking from 
the triumph of their youth. But iu their fugitive glory 
they were anxious; their love breathed into a murmur, 
and a doom himg over their broken delight. It was the 
love-making of two people who did not love each other 
any more. . . . 

Much later in the night he sat up. The dawn was break- 
ing, swiftly driving her rosy chariot behind her orange 
steeds. Sue lay asleep, the dark cheek indented upon the 
pillow, the hair curling like fern fronds, the long lashes 
making blue shadows upon the olive cheek. She smiled as 
she slept with the dew of morning upon her red open hps. 
as if in the night had come with hope reassurance. But he 
sat looking at her. his hands clasping his knees. There she 
lay in her loveliness, who not long before had indeed 
loved him. whom not long before he had loved. A few 
short hours before they had through each other forgotten 
the world, thought to expel it. Now the world was waking, 
and the rosy chariot of dawn already blenched in the rising 
sun. Day was coming, and with day the truth. It could 
not always be cloaking night ; with the sun must come 
that shadow which iox a moment they had blotted out. 



PART THE FOURTH 

LEAVES OF HOLLY 



,f^ 



Plus me plaist le s6jour qu'ont basty mes ayeux. 
Que des palais Romains le front audacieux : 
Plus que le marbre dur me plaist I'ardoise fine, 
Plus mon Loyre Gauloia, que le Tybre Latin, 
Plus mon petit Lyr6, que le mont Palatin, 
Et plus que I'air marin la doulceur Angevine. 



Joachim du Bellay. 



CHAPTER THE FIRST 

SAUSGATE SANDS 
§1 

Sub sat trpon the beach in a striped twopenny chair. 
Her rather awkward fingers struggled with a piece of 
drawn-thread work while Mrs. Cawder by her side enooor- 
aged her. She leant over : " Now be careful, count 
twelve threads." Sue obediently counted and pcepared 
to cut. "Wait," said Mrs. Cawder, anxiously, "don't 
cut yet." They counted again : " There I you'd thirteen. 
You must be very careful; if you cut the wrong one 
the thing's spoiled." 

" Yes, Mrs. Cawder," said Sue, obediently, then Utshed 
for she knew she ought not to have said " Mrs. Cawder." 

It seemed so rude, the way these peopLe had of talking, 
their grants, and " W hats " and Wunt " Yeses " and " Noes." 
Still, that was society. They went on with their work, 
both of them, Mrs. Cawder merely knitting a mufSer, 
for hst eyes, she said, were too weak for drawn-thiead 
work. Sbe was extiaordinarily old. ^e was one of 
those old ladies with beautiful white hair and a oxn- 
{dexion like brown ivory, the kind that has perfect hand? 
and wears slightly starched, very delica 'aces. Chloe, 
a grandmother 1 The work was difficult, Sue Uked to 
think she was doing it instead of knitting stockings; 
it felt so refined. She put it down for a moment, ♦hiniripg 
how refined she was getting. 

Sue was rather pleased with herself that morning on 
&oadstairs beach. She knew that Miss Pbnkey had 
dime her good ; also she liked Miss Ponkey and her way 

«5 385 



386 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



of saying, " I quite understand." One ended by believing 
that, and it was comfortable. In a way she felt quite the 
lady; her white suMe shoes, they, too, were quite the 
lady. In ten months she had become conscious of 
the difference between her mother and her old friends on 
the one hand, and her new friends on the other. She 
felt she could say the right thing, well, not always, but 
now and then. She had ventured into art criticism after 
seeing Mr. Percy Bigland's picture, " Life." She thought 
it a wonderful picture : A youth standing near an abyss 
by the side of a beautiful girl. He was about to plunge 
into the unknown, but was held back by a vision, the Christ 
in a dazzling gleam. The maiden by his side, a glowing 
emblem of the whirling pleasures of the world, tried in 
vain to shut out the vision by shading his eyes with her 
hand. The light still streamed through. She found that 
Mrs. Fomcett also liked that picture very much. That 
had led to Mrs. Fomcett 's trying to teach her to play golf, 
which was not exactly the lesson of the picture and its 
emblems of an enticing world. Sue had gone further ; 
she had given a tea party on her own, and carried it off 
pretty well : she was not very well up in the pleasures 
of the town, but she made great play with the Tate 
Gallery, which everybody else guiltily felt they had not 
visited for years ; that gave Sue superiority. And when 
she said that Puccini's music was the passion of a literary 
hairdresser her success was enormous. Other things, too : 
she could take a taxi now, not without consciousness 
but without fear; and she could tip the man twopence 
instead of sixpence, which she had done as soon as she 
realised that she ought to tip at all. All this had not 
made her happy; she thought it had, but as she grew 
familiar with surroimding comfort, what it had done was 
to make her feel swollen and important, which is almost 
the same thing. She even realised that the Tatler 
and the Bystander were more in her new line than 
the halfpenny picture papers. The Bystander lay 



RABfSGATE SANDS 



387 



on tlie sand just then with the Sphere. Yes. these 
papers, too, were quite the lady. Mrs. Cawder had 
Country Life; Sue felt that it must be very good 
because it was so thick. Apparently there were still 
altitudes to climb, but she was getting on. It was a 
little bleak though, up there. 

Never before had Roger been to a place such as Broad- 
stairs. Most of his holidays, as a boy, had been spent 
at St. Olaves, digging for rabbits and fishing for dace in 
the Char. Later he had gone on walking tours with other 
Gabriel men in Switzerland and Belgium. IDs inclination 
now lay towards the more arty places, Pulborough and 
Winchelsea, or Cornwall (where the modem novel comes 
from). But somehow he did not want to hide with Sue 
in a deserted country. An obscure instinct told him 
not to stress the contrast between their habits until 
that contrast was less. Of course, he did not tell him- 
self that, for it was the truth. He told himself that 
Settlement work would require him from time to time 
in London. Also Theresa had settled at Grove Ferry, 
giving as reasons that she had never heard of anybody 
going there, which meant that it would be restful; also, 
she liked the suggestion of the grove and the ferry. 
Roger reflected that Broadstairs was not far from Grove 
Ferry, so he could . . . well, one wanted . . , 
and, damn it all, why shouldn't he be near Theresa ? 

They were not uncomfortable at the hotel; it was 
rather a quiet little hotel, and the guests were not as 
repulsive as they might have been. It was mainly a 
military and golfy sort of society, with a hint of adventure 
and irregularity, as represented by Miss Grange. A rather 
rosy young novelist with a short moustache, who had 
drifted through the hotel, commented upon the openings 
of Miss Grange's blouses and christened them "world 
without end," adding that if he were in Trouville instead 
of Broadstairs he would try to say Amen. There was 
Captain Saltaire, too, who expressed powerful emotions 



<i 



388 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



by itaeans of monosyllables; it was a way they had in 
{he BdfEs. Sue was not unhappy in this society ; it was 
welirbred, so its members gazed at each other with an 
air of contempt and hatred. They did not thrust them- 
selves upon each other. She exchanged a few words 
with some of the women while they washed. It had 
not been a success, for she puzzled them, they were 
suspicious, they looked at her as if through a lorgnette. 
She got on b^ with Miss Grange, because Miss Grange 
was so pretty and seemed so lonely, and had a fat old 
uncle staying with her who never would leave her. Sue 
fdt sorry for her, for people were not at all nice to poor 
Miss Grange and her uncle, except Captain Saltaire. No, 
she reflected, they were all rather cats except dear old 
Mrs. Cawder, with whom she sat. She was often with 
her, for Mr. Cawder was a great golfer and passed, it 
seemed, all his time ffom dawn to sunset on the links. 
He took Roger with him, too. She did not like that, 
but supposed it was good for him. And so she sat in 
silent companionship with the old lady, padnfully counting 
th-^eads, afraid lest she should cut the wrong one, now and 
then snatching a g^ce at the few swimmers who from 
time t time came out of the hotel in bath tobes. It 
was not thronged, but it was amiable, refinedly amiable, 
screamless. The little boys made sand-castles silently and 
efficiently, just as they woidd build bridges by-and-by 
in India. And the little girls sat with their nurses, read- 
ing L. T. Meade and Grace Aguilar. It was pleasant, 
it was morning, and soft brightness fell from the air. 

BAiss Grange and her uncle came out of the hoteL He 
did look large in that bath gown, and why did be cord 
it so low as to make himself lode larger? And she so 
pretty, like a little girl who somehow was big. Miss 
Grange threw o& her bath robe at the edge of the water, 
and Sue felt a pang ''of envy. Oh, the pretty bathing 
dress I Pink silk 1 It was a little disccmiforting to Sue. 
for, well, pink , . . one didn't look ve.y much 



RAMSGATE SANDS 



389 



dressed. But Miss Grange wore pink silk stockings and 
bathing shoes with tango lacings. Sue remembered that 
when bathing the day before she had actually gone in 
without stockings. In the water were two other women 
also in stockings. Her heart grew heavy : yes. she had 
done it again. She wondered, however, whether even if 
everybody did yjear stockings when they bathed she 
should do so. too; she now had enough social usage 
to know that a thing was not necessarily right when 
everybody did it Dared she ask ? She kwked at Mrs. 
Cawder sideways ; the old lady smiled. 

" WeU, my dear," she said, " what is it ? " 

Sue felt she wanted to kiss her. 

" I was thinking, Mrs. . . ." She caught herself up 
in time. " I don't wear stockings when I bathe, they 
feel so sticky when you're wet." 

" WeU ? " 

" D'you think I ought to wear stockings ? " 

Mrs. Cawder looked at her affectionately. 

" My dear, it's just as you like." The old lady wondered 
for a moment how it was that Sue should ask her this. 
There was something funny about the girL Sweet, of 
course; much more than pretty. But . . . what 
was it? Was it Tooting or what? She had not the 
heart to leave her perplexed : " If you want my honest 
opmion," she said, " I prefer stockings. But I'm quite 
Victorian, my dear, I'm ahnost Georgian. I just tell 
yju because you ask me." 

"Thank you so much," said Sue, emotionally. She 
wished Mrs. Cawder would adopt her and tell her things 
in that mce insinuating way. But still, the fact remained 
that she had bathed without stockings. They wore 
stockings on Olympus, and there she went stockingless. 
And heaven only knew what else wrong she had done 
or was doing. She remembered her mother's frequent 
remark, and ahnost made it aloud : " It's a weary world." 

Captain Saltaire, who had been watching Miss Grange 



390 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



I 



as she carefully entered the water, and stopped as it 
reached her knees to turn and smile at the numerous 
men who were pretending not to see her. grew conscious 
of the bulky uncle ; he seemed rather specially to 
disapprove of him. Languid he came towards them. 

" Momin'," he said, as if he were thinking of something 
else. 

Mrs. Cawder asked him how he had done in the tenms 
tournament the day before. 

"Went down in the first roimd. Don't mind. Too 
hot for tennis." 

Mrs. Cawder smiled. 

" You are slack, you young men, nowadays. Why 
don't you start a cup and ball competition ? " 

"Not half bad idea. I could do with a cup if there 
was somethin' in it." 

The soldier's distrait eyes rested upon Sue. She was a 
danmed fine girl, he thought, and married, too. Well, 
that wasn't against her ; they were easier when they were 
married. Must say something to her. He looked at 
Mrs. Cawder eloquently, and the old lady, sensitive to his 
interest, introduced them. He bent down to look at 
the drawn-thread work and at the strong brown hands. 

" Can't make out how you do it," he murmured ; " used 
to know a chap who went in for tapcstiy. He was a 
sapper," he added, hurriedly. " They're all a bit cracked, 
you know. Still, wish I was up to it ; gives a fellow 
somethin' to think about." 

Sue looked up at him ; she was blushing a little. She 
felt impeUed to offer to teach him. She nearly did, for 
Mrs. Cawder was there ; alone she would not have dared. 
She said : 

•You just draw as many threads as you want, and 
then you work the pattern with a needle and cotton." 

" Yes," said Captain Saltaire, meaning " No," unstirred 
save by the dark flush on her cheeks. "Frightfully 
interestin'. What's it for ? Antimacassar ? " 



RAMSGATE SANDS 391 

" I don't know," said Sue. " Mrs. Cawder says we can 
send it to the rector's sale of work when it's done, but I 
don't think it'U fetch much." She grew thoughtful: 
" I wonder how much those things are worth ? One 
might make quite a good Uving at it." She looked at 
Mrs. Cawder enviously. " If one worked as fast as you, 
why, one might make quite a pound a week at it." 
" Keep you in cigarettes." said Saltaire, smiling. 
Sue did not hear ; she went on talking rather more to 
herself than to her companions, wondering whether drawn- 
thread sold better than crochet, comparing the prices of 
lace in Regent Street and in Westboume Grove. Captain 
Saltaire looked bored. Also Miss Grange came out of 
the water and began to dry in the sun the perfect silk 
stockings with the tango lacings. He strolled away after 
a while, and there was a verv ' ^ng silence, nearly a quarter 
of an hour. Sue felt she k one something, said some- 
thing. She was not reaUy g. ang on, she felt. She had 
got on with certain people, but she was not getting on 
with all of them. At last she had to ask Mrs. Cawder : 
" I don't quite see what you mean, my dear," said the 
old lady. " Of course, he was not offended." 
" I thought . . ." 

"WeU. you couldn't expect him to be interested in 
what tliose things cost, could you ? " 

"No." Sue detected a coldness. "Mre. Cawder," she 
whispered, and remembered that people did not discuss 
these things, and wondered why, "tell me, p'raps I 
oughtn't to have talked about what those things cost ? " 

The old lady looked at her for a while unsmiling ; what 
should she say to this charming child who seemed so 
uneducated and made such an incomprehensible com- 
bination with that nice husband of heis? Of course, 
she did rather impossible things, but could she tell her ?' 
She ought to, but . . . So she gathered up her 
knitting and said : " My dear, one of these days, when 
you feel inclined, tell me a little about youreelf. Not now 



i 

m 



399 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



—I'm going now— only if you led inclined. Life's rather 
difficnlt. we nrast make o< it what we can. That's more 
difficult even than drawn-thread work.' 

When Sue was alone she felt that she could cry. Exposed 
aomdiow. doing wrong, young, and not being told, and 
Roger away all day playing gciU, so he didn't care ; nobody 
else told her, nobody dse cared. A boy with a tray of 
sweets passed ; she bought some chocolates and covertly 
ate them, not at all sure that she might do that on the 
beach, though she had an idea that eating on the beach 
was not the same thing or eating in the street. Still, 
the chocolates were full of cream and soon she felt a little 
better. 

"I've asked Theresa to lunch," said Roger, "she's 
coming to-morrow." 

" Oh I " said Sue. " Is she coming down fnnn London ? " 

" No," said Roger. " she's at Grove Ferry." 

" Where's Grove Ferry ? " 

* Quite near here, about half an hour in the train." 

" Oh ! " said Sue. thoughtfully. " Half an hour in the 
trail. . How long has she been there ? " 

" I don't know, some time." 

" Has she been there ever since we came ? * 

" I think so. Yes, she has." 

Sue thought for a little while. 

" Funny she didn't tell me. I saw her just before we 
left. Told you, didn't she ? " 

Roger stared: "Told nu} Of course she told me, 
but . . . what . . . what the devil d'you mean 
by this ? " He hated himself ; this was the second time 
he had sworn at a woman, and the Huncotes did not do 
that. At least, that was their tradition ; they did swear 
at them and occaaonally they beat them, as they occasion- 
ally drank too nnich port. But family pride had erased 
these facts from the family records. 



RAMSGATE SANDS 



993 






Sue iicftrly replied : " What I say." but this had cauMd 
trouble before, and she was not angry yet ; she was only 
piqued. " I didn't mean anything. Roger, only it seems 
funny she should tell you and not noe." 

" Now look here, if you're jealous, ii we're going to have 
a scene, let's have it at once." 

" It's you who are making a scene," said Sue. 

" I'm not making a scene." Roger shouted. He wondered 
what was coming over him ; in these days he coidd not 
control his temper. " Only when I find you que!>^ioning 
me and hinting at Heaven knows what, just because 
Theresa's a friend of mine and I Uke to go and see her and 
talk to her now and then . . ." 

"Oh?" Sue interrupted. Then, very slowly: "So 
you've been to see her, Roger, on the q.t. ? " 

She wished she had not said that .* Ada Nuttall's fault. 
Her husband looked at her with a hard face : 

" Yes." he said, " I've been to see her. and what il I 
have?" 

" You might have told noe." 

" UTiy ? " 

" It doesn't look nice for a married num to go running 
after a single lady." 

" Don't say ' single lady.' I've already told you." 

" WeU, after a girl then." 

" I'm not running jx.ter her." 

" Then why didn't you tell me ? " 

" Oh ! " Roger burst out, " how do I know ? Don't yoa 
understand that one sometimes wants to have a Uttle 
private life with one's personal friends ? things one doesn't 
talk about to everybody ? " 

"When a man's married . . ." Sue bef a. 

He interrupted and swore again ; yes, that \ ts it. Sue 
would never understand. Bdsonage : rabWts in a hutch, 
all that. And beastly suspicious if one tried to escape 
for five minutes He told her that, and Sue, who until 
thai had been calm, grew angry. For long minutes. 






M 



394 ^ THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

face to face, with clenched hands, they showered upon 
each other short, angiy Httie taunts. He was running 
after Theresa. Yes, he was. 

' You don't seem to understand . . ." 

" Well, I know that much." 

"You think people can't know each other without 
there being something wrong in it." 

" A fet lot you know about what I think." 

" But why don't you tell me instead of sulking ? " 

" Call me sulky ? Me?" 

They hated each other, they hated themselves. She 
felt unjust because she trusted him, and yet could not 
cease abusing him. And he hated himself because his 
conduct was guiltless, and he felt, as he hated this woman 
and remembered the other, a growth of guilty desire 
According to their moral standards, both were pure and 
so they hated each other and themselves because their 
quarrel was driving them towards what they thought 
unpure. They had no knowledge of the world, no cyni- 
cism ; they were paying the penalty of having been chaste 
m thought and deed ; they were suffering because they 
thought too highly of a faithfuhiess which each was 
driving the other to abandon. 

§3 

Roger Huncote thought of a phrase of Pierre Veber : 
" Tout s'arrange." It did, in a way, arrange itself. No 
doubt the harem favourite in the sack arranges herself 
more or less with the cat and the snake in the Bosphorus 
when all three b^in to drown. 

Sue was very unhappy. She was viewing her husband 
more impersonally than she had ever viewed any human 
being. This man with whom she had thought to achieve 
perfect unity was a stranger. If she had known the 
world she would have called him a prig ; as it was, she 
only reflected that he did not talk to her as to other people. 
He was dull, and, not knowing that she irritated him. 



RAMSGATE SANDS 



395 



die thought him bad tempered. He was not correcting 
her much now; that pleased her. for it made Ufe more 
comfortable, and it did not strike her that he cared less. 
But they were civilised people ; he very much so. she more 
or less; they preserved the outer graces of convereation 
and at meals new arrivals thought they looked a charming 
young couple. They even mixed more intimately. One 
evemng. whUe Roger dressed. Sue came into his bed- 
room and wandered about, looking at the water-colours 
upon the wall and at his studs. She observed him brushing 
his teeth. That made her talk. 

"You oughtn't to use so much tooth-powder. Roger" 
she Mid. « They say it rubs the dmel off. Not thit 
you don't want it now and then, smoking such a lot as 
you do. There's a special sort for smokers, isn't there? 
Smokers tooth-powder, they caU it, I'm glad I don't 
anoke, make's one's teeth go so yellow, don't you think ? 
Still, one has to use some tooth-powder sometimes. Those 
mouth-washes they advertise in the papers, they don't 
do as weU. do they? I don't beUeve that Zena Dare 
only uses what the advertisements say she does. She's 
got such a pretty smile, don't you think ? " 

She paused as he did not reply, and then went on 
nervously as if she could not stop : 

"There's paste, too, stuff you rub the brush on. I 
always think it's too soapy, don't you ? Frothing up in 
your mouth like anything. Of couree, that's best if 
you ve got a hard brush, makes it softer. I don't like a 
hard brush, do you? Hurts one if one isn't careful 
I always think you've got to stand it in the glass for the 
water to soften it a bit. Only one mustn't foiget to dry 
It must one ? They say it gets musty if you don't, and 
all the bnstles fall out. ..." 

He did not reply ; perhaps he was not listening. He 
went on brushing his hair. She was talking more than 
she used now that she was sure of herself. And what 
a topic 1 But, as if she did not notice, she went on from 



I 



m 



m 



3g^ 



THE STRANGERS* WEDDING 



tooth-brushes in general to tooth-brushes with dose 
bristles, and distant bristles, to long bristks. and short 
bristles, and then back again to mouth-washes, to a 
spirited comparison between Odol and Soiodont. He 
bad finished brushing his hair now and was putting on 
his collar. 

The eariy violence of his desire for her had gone. Their 
young passion had turned into a convention. On the 
nighty when Sue recited " The Wreck of the Raspberry 
Jam " it had turned into a mere protest. He had never 
been her companion, he was not even her mate. He 
seemed always to be thinking of somethr ^ and never 
about her. She realised that and thought": "I'm all 
ak)ne." The world seemed so large to her who had been 
bom in a Uttle comer of it. The world had seemed so 
gorgeous and so impers<mal from afar, a sort of Albert 
Hall where, of course, you would not go atone, but always 
with somebody you toved very much in the next seat. 
Now the seat was empty, and she sat alone in the Albert 
Hall of life. She felt cold and frightened ; she exagger- 
ated her own importance. She thought that everybody 
stared at the vacant seat next to her and wondered why 
nobody sat in it. She was very lonely. She used to go 
upstairs and downstairs, pretending to fetch something, 
just to have something to do, to walk up and down the 
front all alone, envying the couples. She, too, had been 
m Arcadia long ago, and she did not know why she had 
been turned out. Or had she really been in Arcadia? 
" It's like a dream," she thought. 

It had indeed been a dream come to her in the sleep of 
life. And now, dreamless, she slept. She went for httle 
walks. SLe went to the railway station to see the trains 
come in. It was funny on the bridge, for she remembered 
the httle boys who used to hang over a bridge like that 
m St. Panwkh and try to spit upon the engine driver 
as the trains went by. She hked the station. Eveiybody 
seemed so excited at meeting eveiybody or sony to see 



I 



RAMSGATE SANDS 



397 



them go. For Sue was a true woman and understood 
only the emotions : pain of parting, joy of meeting, love 
fulfaied. envy of clothes, fear of pain. aU those things she 
understood, and some of them were in the railway station, 
that gate at which so many delights enter and so many die. 

She had not, after all, told Mrs. Cawder about herself. 
She had thought of telling her a romantic story, of how 
she was the daughter of " an ancient house of high lineage " 
who had been kidnapped in infancy by gipaes. Then 
one day she was recognised owmg to a cmoneted handker- 
chief when she was singing ... in the snow, of 
course, in the snow Or, on the other hand, she could be 
a Mystery, something foreign and rather royal, who was 
just pretending to be, what did they caU it ? yes, incork- 
nito, just for a quiet life. Or she might tell her the truth, 
washtub and all. But when it came to it, she could not. 
Sue tried to talk to Mi>s Grange, too, but was horrified 
because Miss Grange ret, onded and told her three stories, 
one of which she could not even understand. The other 
two made her shudder, especially as the sweet little mouth 
of the sweet little girl, who happened to be big. expressed 
at the end views on men which she decorated with every 
adjective Sue had heard in the mouths of the draymen in 
St. Panwich High Street. It was horrible; like a Kly 
growing in a cesspool. And to make it worse, Miss 
Grange's uncle arrived and. when Miss Grange was not 
looking, took Sue by the arm and winked at her. It made 
her sick, for his eydid was so fat that when he winked it 
looked like a pink sausage moving. 

She found hereelf getting friendly with Liraie, the 
chambermaid. She took to going up to her bednxHn after 
breakfast and talking to Lizzie viiiile she did the room. 
Lizzie was smaU and very fair and thought Sue lovely. 
She told her, and Sue Uked that. Also she hinted she'd 
seen a deal of trouble and had a y'»"»>P' man, 'Enry, a stoker 
in the P. & O., whose i^tograp. _.^ - .-j^, 1, .„ »^he 
third morning. Lizzie Uked Sue, and she got into trouble 



ilt 

I 



39« 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



m 



now and then for wasting time, for she liked to talk to 
Sue, vaguely feeling that she need not call her m'am too 
often, and discossing whether she'd be well-advised to buy 
that second-hand coal-scuttle they had in a shop at Mar- 
gate. Lizzie was getting the little home together while the 
mysterious 'Enry stoked on the China seas. It was very 
grateful to Sue, this plunge into something she could 
understand : Lizzie in heaven by-and-by, in one room near 
Tilbury Docks, managing nicely on fifteen bob a week, 
counting what she earned, and 'Enry coming back very 
much in love every few months. But suddenly she realised 
it would not do. She was sUding back. This intimacy, it 
was pulling her down. She was a lady now, and she could 
not do the nice things people ^'i who weren't ladies. So, 
the next morning, Lizzie fussed and waited in vain in the 
bedroom, for Sue did not come up. Sue had reproached 
herself for this backsliding; her poor httle edifice of 
importance and self-satisfaction was collapsing like a bit 
of sugar in a cup of tea. 

f4 

That morning was Bank HoUday. Sue stood outside 
the hotel a little excited because it was Bank Holiday. 
There was Bank Holiday in the. air. It awoke old feelings, 
raised old Bank HoUdays that had come like saturnalia, 
then gone to glamour. There was agitation even iri 
Broadstairs and down the surmy little street that curls 
away towards the front ; she thought she could hear upon 
the refined beach music less refined. A couple passed by, 
from London ob-fo the lady was carrying the gentle- 

man's stick. .ey were laughing ; they were passing her 
by, and she felt envious and left. They were nearing the 
comer. She heard him say : " Have a banana ? " And 
then they were round the comer, and she was left upon the 
steps of the hotel in a piqu6 frock, with a champagne- 
coloured sweater, refined and alone. 

A few yards away a motor 'bus. marked Ramsgate, was 



RAHSGATE SANDS 



399 



rambling eagerly, as if it wanted to be off. It was not very 
full yet, for Broadstairs probably intended to be orgiastic 
in its own discreet way. The conductor was anxious to fill 
up. and Sue upon the steps all alone inspired him : " Come 
on ! Come on, lidy ! All for Ramsgit I Come on, lidy I 
Rmi you down t' the briny in 'arf an hour." 

Sue smiled; the conductor smiled back: "Come on, 
Udy, yer don't want f miss Bank 'OUday. Ah I I can 
see yer want to come, Udy. That's right I 'Ave a little 
bit o' wot yer fancy, I think it does yer good." 

Sue was aware of tumultuous emotions. She had Bank 

HoUdayed before now, generally at Southend. He was a 

thrilling conductor, and half the 'bus load was laughing at 

him and at her, not unkindly. Bank HoUday I Pierrots I 

Cocoanuts ! The slumbrous past 1 Why not ? Roger was 

playing golf, and even if he wasn't, she thought, he wouldn't 

miss her. She did not pause, she leapt into the 'bus and, 

as if spider-like the 'bus had waited only for her, it quivered 

with excitement and with a roaring rasp bore her off, 

thrilled and terrified, as Proserpine in the embrace of 

Pluto. They were not quite Bank Hohdayish in the 'bus ; 

some came from Margate and impUed that they came from 

Cliftonville ; a few were from Brx)adstairs. Nobody ate 

anything, and she heard a large red woman say that she 

wanted to see what Bank Holiday was like. That was 

why she was going to Ramsgate. But in any case she- 

would not much have noticed her companions then. She 

was an escaped school-girl ... out of bounds, and 

the flat fields of Thanet, accursed tram-soiled isle, fields 

of mangy grass and dirty earth, seemed an Eden. 

She was in Ramsgate. She was afraid. There was heat 
and dust, and music in the air. For a moment she stopped 
where the 'bus had put her down, looking at the old Vic- 
torian houses with their narrow verandahs of wrought 
iron, at " Chatsworth." at " GreviUe Towers " (otherwise 
known as No. 42 , all of them boarxi-residences or apart- 



400 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



merits, all more or less to let, emch one with its drawing- 
loom, each one ¥rith its aspidistra in a pot, one a^ndistra 
in a green pot with a pink sash, one aspidistra in a yellow 
pot with a bhie sash. . . . 

She was afraid, afraid of the mob. The mob came 
marching down continuously from the railway station, 
meeting other mobs from the station near the sands, the 
mobs from the tramways, the mobs from the 'bi»es and the 
char-a-bancs, the littie mobs that trickled from the apart- 
ments houses. She was shouldered, she was jostled, and, 
oh, delirium ! she was winked at. But aheady she was 
afraid of being seen, all alone like that. It felt frightfully 
lonely in the Bank Holiday crowd, that hectic London 
crowd, its men with the earthy faces, its tired giris, its 
rouged girls, its rowdy boys with Woodbines stuck to their 
under-lip, its fat black Jewish flappers from Mile End. 
She was afraid, and also she was hungry. Oh, why had 
she been so quick ? 'Why hadn't she even brought sand- 
wiches which ^e could eat in a quiet place ? She laughed 
at hersdf : " A quiet place in Ramsgate ! " She thought : 
" Can't stand here all day," and it struck her that to eat 
would hdp her to hide. She went into an Italian restau- 
rant under the arches, a steaming little place where the 
perspiration of waiters, the persistent smell of steak and 
miions, and the aroma of gold-flake assailed her, remi- 
niscent, and, therefore, deUdous. She sat down at a littie 
table with two stranger girls ; she did not know how 
happy she was : here was neither caviare nor white paint. 
She would Uke to have talked to the girls who, looking at 
her suspiciously as if they thought she was not quite one 
of them, carried on a continual and exciting conversation 
about somebody they called " they." She caught snatches 
of it now and then : 

"Tlwy wouldn't let me go, what could I do? And 
there I was, and the last train gom ; so I said to 'em, ' It's 
all very weU,' I said, • I'U be locked out,' I said. ... * 

Sue struggled with a very tough leg of cold toyA, and 



I 



RAMSGATE SANDS 401 

Ksteued hard. But there was too much noise; the three 
waitera fiUed the room with shriU. musical Italian, corks 
P<^. forks clattered on plates, and a family party 
next to her alternately smacked and soothed its diil- 
dren. A young couple distracted her. He was doing her 
proud with a bottle of ginger ale done up in ^-foU 

just hke champagne wine." But they ate and drank 
only at mtervais. The two sat unashamedly hand in 
hand shoulder against shoulder. Sue misquoted a snatch • 

Joshua^ Joshua I Sweeter than strawberries and cream 
you ate. She sighed, for it hurt her a Uttle. and she ate 
quickly as if she wanted to get away, out in the open 
where she could be more personally alone. The girls were 
still whispering : 

" Oo, rather. 'E's a gentleman." 

" No ! " 

"Tell you 'e is. 'E's a medical student. 'e is. Dental." 
ri r®?* °"* «€*»"• ^ed and unsatisfied. She felt just a 
httle stuck up. for this was the first time she had lunched 
alone at a restaurant : Bank HoUday. She had lunched 
late and those who had not left the boarding-houses 
clustered mtheu: front gardens. There were large groups 
of young men with faces in^amed by the sun. all gradW 
from pmk to purple, bearing aU kinds of bUsters from 
mere fray to vaccination patch : they had not long been 
by the sea. The Jewish boarding-houses with the mys- 
tenous lettering drew her perhaps more than any, for there 
the famihes, dark. fat. extensively dressed, reposed in each 
otners abundant bosoms, somewhat sleepy after food 
conscious of its cost, grandmother, grandfather, hoyden 
and httle child, uncle and every aunt they had ever 
had. ... 

It was half-past two .-^ Ramt^ate was at the fuU of its 
hohday. She went out upon the front, where a miUtary 
band was playing musical comedy successes to thc-sancb 
and tfioimnds of chairs, each one tenanted, some of them 
t«ianted by twoi and round them the vast mobs that 



402 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

looked black and white as the light dresses of the girls 
mixed with the men's dark city suits. White straw hats 
with 'varsity ribbons, regimental colours combmed with 
silk hats. She could hardly move. At every step she 
butted into young men that begged pardon, or mto girls 
who sniffed at her sweater. She felt conscious of her 
champagne sweater among all those others, mostly sky 
blue or pink. A heat and dust rose about her towards the 
sky that was as a blue pearl. Everywhere round her was 
laughing and canoodling and spooning. Yes. indeed, for 
there was a swirl in the crowd, and towards her. cl^nng 
all before them, came six boys, with six fags in then: six 
mouths, who as they smoked swaggered and sang : 

If the man in the moon 

Were a coon. 
Would you spoon 
With the man in the moon ? . • • 

She could not help laughing ; they were all laughing as 
the boys passed. Voices blended into a soUd hum. The 
band streaked it; "Tara! Tara! Tantara !" scream^ its 
trumpets. And the voice of an ice-cream man : Hoy ! 
Hoyl Hokey-pokey! Penny a lump!" All were gay. 
evai the Jewish flappers who. dressed up. went m pairs 
telling each other about their rich relations at Hampstead. 
It was all so violent and alive that somehow she no longer 
felt alone. She looked at her neighbours, smiled at them, 
aiid they at her. But at once she grew afraid of being 
seen. No, she must not stay here. She thought of the 

^^ere they lay, just under the front, the illimitable 
yeUow sands, so vast, so flat, that the thousands of striped 
chairs dotted everywher made but small marks. There 
lav the sands and there was no sea. for the endless hne of 
bathing-machines obscured it. the bathing-machines, each 
one vnth its Uttle knot of two or three waiting theu: turn, 
and its smart rowdy keeping an open eye for scanty 
costumes. Only in one or two j^es, in gaps between the 



RAMSGATE SANDS 403 

machines, could she see the sea. It was full. full. There 
was no water near the edge, but only a bobbing mass of 
red and blue bathing dresses, masses of children that 
screamed and plunged among the adults who never got 
wet above their waists. From the sands towards her 
rose the vast clamour of the crowd, which aU the time she 
could see reinforced by the steady black and white streams 
that still came down from the railway station. Far 
stretched the sands. Further on she could see where 
tennis courts had been marked out for the people to play 
pat-ball, or where games of cricket had hurriedly been 
organised. Strokes were being clapped, cheered. She 
heard hurrahs, bravos. mouth-oigans. Much further black 
specks danced where inexperienced riders suffered proud 
pangs on hired horses. It thrilled her, it made her want to 
plunge into this Ufe so large. . . . And here was 
another band, a denser one that bellowed: "Boom! 
BOOM ! PATaboom . . , squeak 1 " chaUenidnff the 
other's "Taral Tara! TantaRA!" ... 

But down upon the sands she at last felt atone. The 
sun beat heavy upon her head. She went down to the 
edge of the water where the grown-ups were paddling ; 
she envied those people with tucked-up skirts, and for a' 
second wanted to pull off her shoes and stockings. But 
still, she was afraid : to be seen was bad enough, but to be 
seen paddling. ... She felt different, and this in- 
creased her loneliness. So for a long time she went along 
the sands where everybody was picnicking, where per- 
spiring fathers with immense efforts opened bottles of 
beer, where everywhere was a crying child that had got 
lost, except where a mother, already tired, dragged on 
and shook something that screamed and wept in the 
characteristic way a child has of showing its pleasure on 
Bank HoUday. She stood in front of the Punch and 
Judy show. . . . " PittywittyEEK 1 Kerh-0 1 Whata- 
whatat KeeminuteeWEEK r Punch screamed. 
She fdt so lonely in the midst of the oU life. ... 



404 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

Suddenly she grew conscious of All. She did not yet 
know his name was Alf. but Alf it was. Alf was rather 
like a rat. with small eyes and an inquiring nose. But he 
had a nice snule, and a moustache that made one thmk 
together of the miUtary and the hairdresser's shop. She 
had noticed Alf once or twice during the last five minutes, 
sometimes in front of her, sometimes by her side. It 
embarrassed her horribly as soon as she reahsed that AU 
was keeping upon her that sharp eye. Not that he dis- 
pleased her ; she liked the moustache, and it did not occur 
to her to think that this might be only because she was 
married to a clean-shaven man. Still, she was rather 
afraid. She walked on hurriedly a few steps round to the 
right behind the Punch and Judy show. To her horror 
and delight, as she rounded the crowd Alf came face to 
face with her. „ 

" Hallo ! " he said. " All on your lonesome ? 
She did not reply. Her heart beat heavUy, her body 
was in tumult. A year before she would have known 
how to snub him : during the past year she should have 
learnt how to ignore him. But she had lost the art of 
Cockney snubbing without gaining the art of aloofne^ ; 
she had been something and had become nothmg ; she 
was nothing. Alf came a little closer. ^ 

- Xf you aren't meeting anybody, I ain't. Is 'e waitm 
for ycr round the comer ? " 

« No," said Sue, rather miserably. Of course, nobody 
was waiting for her round the comer. Then she realised 
too late that she had spoken ; she was caught. Alf knew 
it He took for granted that they were to pass the after- 
noon together. He told her it was very hot, then remarked 
generally: "Hot place, Ramsgate." She agreed, and 
found that she had walked on two steps with him. It ^ 
dreadful and deUcious; it was like drowning. Alf jabbered 
on : he was a plasterer, it seemed, and his name ^ . . 
weU, she could call him Alf, she could. It thrilled her, 
the old voice, and she laughed when he pointed at ^n old 



RAMSGATE SANDS 



405 



man with a bulbous nose, and asked her whether that 
was not one of God's left-overs. She was still shy, then 
told herself : " After all. why not ? " An anxiety seized 
her. She had worn gloves in the motor 'bus, and auto- 
matically put them on again after lunch. That was all 
right, but she would have to take them off. So, very 
slowly, as she walked by Alf's side, listening as he criticised 
the band, she worked off her left glove, and then by degrees 
her wedding-ring. It was sacramental and terrible, this 
taking of! of the wedding-ring, and as she put it into the 
pocket of her sweater and looked at her bare hand, it 
seemed as if she had thrown her old life behind her. 

" I'm in the building hne," said Alf. " I'm having a 
week's holiday on my own. Thought I'd come here ; it's 
rather cheerful, ain't it ? " 
" Yes." said Sue. " I've never been here before." 
" Oh," he said, without interest. 

Alf did not want to know much about her. Indeed, he 
talked busily as if he did not want her to question him too 
much, being rather conscious that if his wife had not been 
ill she would have accompanied him that day. He must 
divert her from questions, he felt. " Let's have a bathe." 
he said, and as he spoke let an admiring gaze rest rather 
heavily upon the broad-breasted young woman, yet so 
girlish in her white piqu6 frock. 

" Oh, no." said Sue, " I couldn't." Her eyelashes were 
cast down and she looked quite shy. 
" G'on," he said. " It'll do you good once in a way." 
She looked up at him merrily. 
" Oh, I often have a bath," she said. 
" Who'd have thought it ! " he repUed, with suitable 
raillery. They both laughed together. "P'raps you're 
right," said Alf. " Might give you a shock. There was a 
man at Blackpool once . . . ever heard the story of 
the man who lost his waistcoat ? " 
"No." said Sue. 
"Well, there was a Yorkshireman who went down to 



406 



THE STRAKGERS* WEDDING 



I 



Blackpool with his wife, just for the day like you and 
me, and after they'd bathed and dressed and gom, ' I've 
k>st my waistcoat,' he said. WeU. they looked for it high 
and tow, and they couldn't find it. And they tooked 
everywhere at the doss, and they couldn't find it. Lost, 
it was." 
-WeU?" said Sue. 

"Well, that n't the end of the story. In time he 
forgot all about it, he did, but the year after they went 
to Blackpool again just for the day, and he hadn't been in 
the bathing-machine more'n a minute when his wife 
heard 'im shouting: 'Maria! Maria I I've found my 
waistcoat !' 'Where was it?' asked Maria. 'You 
wouldn't believe it.' 'e said, ' it was under my shirt ! ' " 
After a moment required for the full taking in of the 
story. Sue laughed. Not since the days of Ada Nuttall 
had she been told a story of this kind, or told it with the 
animal relish that made it worth while. She laughed so 
much that she found hwsdf natural with Alf . She did 
not think it abnormal to be strolling along the sands with 
him, arm lu o v.. 
** What's your name ? " said Alf. 
She did not hesitate : " Vera." 
" My I " he said. " That's rather swell." 
For a fleetuig second she thought that that was the 
name she ought to have had if grandma had not imposed 
upon her family. 
" Yes," she said. " I rather Uke it." 
" Vera," repeated Alf, with relish, " that's what I call 
a name. You're one of the girls." 

" Yes," said Sue, automatically, " one of the gir-hirls," 
and felt frightfully Nuttallish. She wished that Ada could 
see her now ; she, too, could be bold and bad. She wasn't 
Nuttallish ? Well, you wait. 

It grew hotter and hotter. . . . From time to time 
Alf swore as he brushed away the flies. He drew her to a 
lemonade stand where they formed part of a long file, 



tAlfSGATE SANDS 407 

waiting to be lerved with lomethiiig yeQow and faintly 
atnc. In the distance the big band descended to ragtime : 

Come on and hear I Come 00 and HEAR I Alexander's 
Rag Time BAND! ..." She drank; it was cold, 
bhe felt happy. She loved everything. She had to stop 
by a fat baby who was perseveringly trying to thrust the 
head of a doU into a bottle. It laughed at her from every 
pmk crease, and she bent down to poke the fat cheeks. 
She was no longer her new self ; she felt she was again just 
Sue Groby as she remarked to the baby : " OA/ you ole 
artful." It smiled, and Sue went on ticklhig the pink neck • 
" Oh, you old artful," she said. 

Alf 's hand was more insistent upon her arm ; she did 
not mind for. after aU, wasn't everybody doing it round her 
noi • ? Too hot too, and the sky was bhie. 

" What's your line ? " asked Alf. 

" Oh, I'm in business," she said. He underetood, and 
did not press. " Staying tong ? " he asked. 

" No," said Sue, " I'm only up for the day " 

" Where's 'e gone to?" 

"He? There's no he." 

"Get alon^ One's only got to look at you to know 
there s a he." 

• Your brain's dusty," said Sue. (Nuttall I) 
Alf laughed. They approached some niggers now. who 
with bones and banjo had coUected an immense crowd. 
They forced their way through the edges of it. They could 
just see them, the black, smilmg faces, glistening with 
perspiration and grease paint. There was an odd melan- 
choly in their lilting song : 

To the cook shop he went dashing. 
And who should bring the hash in 
But the girt that he'd been mashing 
By the sad sea waves I 

•' D'you think they're really bh^cs ? " said Sue. 
" G'on." said Alf. with imme^ * disgust. " You ain't 
got more sense than a baby ; of course they ain't real blacks. 



406 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



Ton've only got to k)ok round their months an' you can 
see the Une where it don't match." 

" I see," said Sue, humbly, and somehow (deased to be 
corrected. He felt her pleasure, and bought her a stick 
of chocolate. 

And so for a long time these two, arm in arm, and now 
with linked hands, wandered about among the children 
and the hurdy-gurdies, stopping to cheer ironically where 
men had stripped off all tiiey dared and threw at the 
cocoanut shies. They went, loquacious, young and gay, 
among those other people that ate and made love. Alf 
said : " Have some more chocolate. Or perhaps not, 
it'll make you sick." 

" It's a rumour," said Sue, not quite sure that this was 
appropriate, but quite sure that it was Nuttallish. The 
afternoon was slowly waning ; they went back upon the 
front. Beyond, in a field, was a miniature menagerie, with 
the mild-looking wild cat, and the Siberian wolf, hot and 
panting, so like a dog that it made one suspicious. They 
both jeered at the zebra. 

" Give me the Zoo," said Alf. " This is a fair do. Tell 
you wot, when we get back to London I'll take you to 
the Zoo, I will." 

" Thanks," said Sue, " I'm not going back for a while." 
She switched off from this dangerous conversation to the 
menagerie : " You know, Alf, that zebra wasn't bad." 

He sniffed. " No ; still nothing to rip oilcloth over." 

Then he tried to persuade to be photographed. " Come 
on," he said, " just you an' me, 'and in 'and." 

" Oh, I couldn't," said Sue. 

" You've got to, just as a souvenir, unless you're afraid 
my face'll smash the camera." 

He was obstinate, and she felt that she could not ; this 
was too much. Besides, it was growing late, it was nearly 
five. Already the boarding-houses were receiving back 
the crowds making for high tea. 

" I must g<' ' she said. 



RAMSGATE SANDS 



409 



at her surprised, 
staying 



Go?" he said. 



were 



All looked 
thought you 

" Well, near here," said Sue. " But I must go, it's 
getting late." 

' What's your hurry ? " He led her to the field where 
.as the roundabout, where couples in a state of extreme 
superficial amorousness rode upon wooden horses, wooden 
geese, or yet stranger mounts. But she was anxious, she 
was afraid. These four hoius on the loose, who knew 
how she would have to pay for them ? 

" I must go," she said again. 

" WeU, I'll go along with you for a bit." said Alf. " This 
way to the station." 

She did not want to go to the station, but she trusted 
somewhere to see a 'bus for Broadstairs, so she followed 
him along the side of the field. Just before they reached 
the gate, and before she could stop him, he threw an arm 
about her shoulders, drew her close ; she struggled, turning 
away her face. As she fought she heard ironical cheers, 
male imitations of feminine giggles, and dimly a hymn 
rise from a religious meeting : " There is a fountain filled 
with BLOOD, Drawn from Immanuel's veins. . . ." 

" Lemme go," she murmured. But he held her fast and, 
close-pressed, tried to reach her mouth. She did not 
hate him ; she did not even know that she would mind if 
he kissed her. only she was afraid. She heard the reUgious 
band bray. They struggled. She grew defiant: "Now 
then I" and drove her elbow into him. Still the band, 
groaning and bloodthirsty, still he pressed on. and she 
felt weak. "Oh, do behave ..." she wailed. He 
laughed and finished the quotation : " Get a shave, Charlie 
do give over." He kissed her upon the neck, and at this 
contact her purity rebelled. Hot and ruffled, she thrust 
him back against the gate. " Good afternoon," she said, 
head held very high. " You're a gentleman 1 " He looked 
at her angrily : " You're a lady, and now we're both liars I " 

She went back in a char-ii-banc. Under her fear she 



1 3 



III 



4ID 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



was etili excited and happy, and yet hall-crying because 
she did not know exactly what had happened to iuer and 
how strong was the hold of the old life. Then a terror 
seized her. Roger might '« back. He'd want to know 
what she'd been doing all day. She felt guilty about 
Alf ; after all she had led him on. And it felt disloyal to 
her new class, too. She had done wrong ; she would be 
punished. Supposing somebody had seen her and told? 
what ever should she do ? She did not get to the hotel 
until half-past six ; Roger was dressing, putting on his 
tie. " Now for it," she thought, and then more shrinking : 
what ever should she say ? But Roger did not look at her ; 
he looked only at her reflection in the looking-glass. Then 
he said: 

" Hallo, Sue I been out for a walk ? " 

" Yes," she replied, not knowing whether to add anything. 
After a moment Roger said : 

" I came in from golf about five." Then, half determined 
to leave her free, half indifferent : " Hang it I I've spoilt 
this tie." And that was all. 

That n^ht she could not sleep, and lay crying for a 

long time. It would have been much better, she dimly 

felt, if he had questioned her and then sworn at her, 

and beaten her when he found out. But he did not. He 

had hardly noticed. He did not care any more. She lay 

awake while the more discreet Bank HoUday of Broadstairs 

died away.' Some of the Ramsgate Bank Holiday had 

followed her, for in the night she could hear other niggers 

singing: 

To the cook shop he went dashing. 
And who should bring the hash in 
But the giri that he'd been mashing 
By the sad sea waves. 

She lay with her face upon the pillow that grew hot and 
moist with tears, and then for the first time asked herself 
whether she cared any more. 



CHAPTER THE SECOND 
reversion 

Si 
As the train took him towards Grove Ferry, Roger felt 
guilty. For he had set out immediately after breakfast, 
giving Sue the quick, husbandy kiss of the occasion. And, 
though he had not said he was going to golf, he had taken 
his bag, allowed the sticks to be very obvious. Now 
the golf clubs lay in the cloak-room at Broadstairs. He felt 
himself sink deeper into deception. Twice he had been to 
Grove Ferry on the sly ; now he was going to Grove Ferry 
while pretending to go somewhere else. That was worse. 
"It's her fault." he reflected, "it's her dam jealousy." 
And he hated her because she seemed to be driving him 
towards deception. He brooded over that for a while. 
Then, by natural association of ideas, he remembered 
his scene with Sue. Yes, Theresa too had been a little 
deceitful ; she had told him she was going to Grove Ferry 
and she had not told Sue. He wondered why. But he did 
not wonder long, for he was too interested in himself. 
Besides, he could not have understood how much Theresa 
had hesitated, how guilty she had felt. He could never 
have understood that she intended nothing, that she just 
wanted to drift and take her chance with life, and that she 
obscurely wanted to live in a garden inclosed, giving the 
key only to him. He would have been shocked, had he 
umlerstood, for to him Theresa was pure to the point of 
saintliness; so it would have bera delicious and yet 
dreadful to discover that Theresa was only a woman, 
capable of deceiving because she loved. The concealment 

4" 



412 



THE STRAKGERS* WEDDING 



I 



of her abode for the first time exposed Theresa as a 
woman : so he did not understand her. Roger was a 
little like Sue : she was uncivilised and he was young, 
"you were married and . . . well, there you are, 
there you were." He was the sort of man who can 
believe in the sanctity of the marriage bond after hear- 
ing the decree nisi pronounced against him. 

As the train rumbled on through the fields of Thanet 
that look hke an imperfectly reclaimed sewage farm, he 
still thought of himself and Sue, of the fortnight that had 
elapsed since Bank Holiday, when she had been out all 
day doing heaven knew what. Not that he cared. He 
understood his relation better now ; it seemed made up of 
small indifferences to each other's opinion and occupations ; 
they were not even quarrelling now. To think of his rela- 
tion wearied him ; it was so unstimulating, and he knew 
that Sue's commonness, of which he was now aware, 
exasperated him into a priggish and patronising frigidity 
Perliaps he was a prig, or perhaps she made him a prig. 
If it was her fault : what a grievance ! And as he felt a 
grievance, he concluded it must be her fault. 

It was very good in Theresa's garden, an old long garden 
bounded on three sides by the cottage and two white 
walls. At the bottom of the garden ran the little Stour, 
half-hidden behind sedges and bukushes in flower. They 
sat in the shadow of the cottage, and after a few conventional 
phrases found themselves sUent. He thought it was the 
garden interested him, and it might have, for it was 
beautiful. Right and left of the central lawn ran the flower 
beds. At regular intervals, spread upon the wall, were 
apple trees and apricot trees trained as fans. In front 
stood the stooping hollyhocks, the foxgloves, loaded with 
rosy honeycombs, the lupins, rigid and tender as church 
ornaments. And at their august feet grew smaller plants, 
mauve asters with golden hearts, shy godetias rooted 
among the clusters of shyer aubrietia. At the very end, 
where the bed disappeared into the river, pale symbolic 



REVERSION 



413 



lilies. He liked the end of the garden, for the lawn stopped 
a dozen feet from the water's edge and anything grew 
there that chose : rock roses, aggressive purple knapweed 
and pink rest-harrow, striving to hide under its own 
leaves. . . . 

Theresa suited her old garden. It felt very lonely, for 
they could hear nothing save Elizabeth singing insidfe the 
house, and sometimes a wet soimd as a water rat plunged 
into the Stour. She was all in wliite, lay slim in the 
deck chair. She was languid, and for a time he watched 
the long swaying hand that played with the books upon the 
ground. He read the title of one of them, " Aucassin et 
Nicolette." He did not know it, but the very sound of 
the word- charmed him. And he liked to see upon her 
lap another book, " The Grettir Saga." She was smoking 
a cigarette, a new habit, and for a long time he saw only 
an aesthetic diagram : slim white fingers, rosy finger- 
nails, curving blue smoke. He wanted very much to tell 
her . . . well, what did he want to tell her ? He did 
not know. It felt so odd here among the scents of flower 
and grass, where there were no sounds save the water, the 
distant call of a bird and the busy grumble of a bumble bee. 
He gave it up after a while. They just said a few things 
about Sue's health, about golf, which Theresa really ought 
to play. They even talked about whether it was easy 
to get up and down to town. They talked common- 
places as if they feared intimacies, or as if all the intimacies 
had already been voiced. They were gayer at lunch, when 
the woes of Elizabeth entertained them. Elizabeth was a 
Cockney, and could not understand why it was almost 
impossible to get fish near the sea, while the local fruit was 
not a patch on what you could buy in the Edgware Road. 
They laughed with and at her, and Roger drai^ too much 
hock, while a flush of animation rose into Theresa's pale 
cheeks. It was not until after, when they sat under the 
wall, the sun having shifted, when coffee had been nuuie 
and drunk, that they felt themselves come closer to each 



414 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



other. It was two o'clock, and the heat fell not too oppres- 
sive but pressed languid hands upon their eydids, made 
them soft and content. Suddenly Roger said : 

" I'm very happy here." 

Theresa said : " So am I." Then she thought : " How 
wonderful it could be if you could stay I " She had a vision 
of herself and Roger in this garden, of course with tne 
flowers always blooming, always together, always easy, 
practising the art of Ufe, which is to die as delightfully 
as possible. And it could never be. She sighed, and, 
reacting, wanted to tease him. 

" Wake up ! " she said. " One doesn't go to sleep before 
a lady. I'm s'prised at yer." She laughed, meaning him 
to be amused by her cockneyism. 

He shrank away : " Don't," he said. 

For a second she stared at him, then she understood. 
She bent forward : 

"Oh, R(^er, I'm so sorry ... I forgot. Please 
forgive me, I . . ." 

" It's all right," said Roger, roughly, " I'm used to it." 

She did not know what to say. She knew Sue had 
improved. Yes, but of course it was impossible. She felt 
unhappier than ever before. She could feel the whole ache 
of him passing into her body and hurting her. It was agony. 
To lose him, well, if she must ... but to lose him 
and to see him unhappy ... it was horrible. She 
had to knit her hands together, so violent was her impulse 
to throw her arms round his neck, draw him close, bury 
his eyes in her breast where he could see nothing and hear 
nothing, feel nothing, be conscious of nothing save the 
shelter of arms open to none save him. She was-ludd ; 
she discussed it with herself : " It could only make things 
worse," she thought. So she bent forward again : "Roger," 
she said, ' is it as bad as all that ? " 

He nodded. He seemed afraid to speak, like a boy of 
i/rdvt having his first caning. *vho wants to cry and is 
keeping it down. 



REVERSION 



415 



"I'm sorry," she said, and felt inadequate. But she 
was irritated too, for she was being baulked of the maternal 
fimction that bdongs to every woman who loves : she 
wanted to comfort him, and he was not letting her do so. 
Hesitating, she took his hand : " Tell me," she murmured. 
" Tell me anything you like." 

He looked at her, and as he gripped her hand dose she 
saw a look in his grey eyes that made her think of an animal 
that has long been hunted. 

" What is there to tell ? " he said. " You know all about 
it. I thought I could teach her. I can't." 

Theresa made an effort : 

"Try," she said. "Are you not impatient? Are you 
sure you've tried enough ? tried in the right way ? " 

"Ten months," he replied. Then ahnost to himself: 
" It seems a very long time. You see, she doesn't under- 
stand. One could teach her if she understood, only she 
doesn't. It's . . . it's like a doll that says pa-pa 
when you press the spring, and if you don't press the spring 
well . . . well, it can't say pa-pa; that's all." He 
grew remorseful : " I oughtn't to talk to you like this. 
It's sort of disloyal, only what am I to do^? " 

Theresa did not reply. How could she tell him what he 
ought to do ? "Go on," seemed brutal and silly, but what 
else could she say ? 

"You see" Roger went on . . . "oh, never mind 
it's being disloyal, I must talk. Don't look shocked, 
Theresa, that's what I've come to. I don't care whether 
I'm disloyal or not. And there's the stiff Up, and all that 
sort of rot. Well, I can't keep a stiff Up any more. I 
can't teach her. She does things in public, I hate telling 
you. things like wearing the wrong clothes . . ." 

" Dear," said Theresa. " Isn't that a very little thing 
when one loves ? " 

He ignored the last port of the sentence. 

" No, it isn't a very little thing to fed imcomfortable and 
ashamed because one's wife is different somehow from the 



4i6 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 






ynm m one knows. There it is all the time, this difference, 
reminding one. And it's not only that, it's not only being 
ignorant and not knowing the ight things — one can put 
that right— but it's liking the wrong things that's so 
dreadful, the wrong people." 

" Oh, you mean the relatives ? " 

"No," said Rc^er, with sudden fury. "D'you know 
who she picks out to try and chum up with ? A kept girl 
at the hotel who's staying there with a fat old beast." 

" Roger ! " said Theresa. " Don't be absurd. Of course. 
Sue doesn't know." 

He turned upon her his miserable eyes. 

" But don't you understand, Theresa ? that's just it, 
that's what's killing me. If she knew it wouldn't matter. 
One could tell her not to. It's the fact that she doesn't 
know the difference, and I can't teach her that, I can't, 
I can't." 

Theresa did not speak for a long time. Yes, she had 
never seen it like that. And Roger went on poudng out 
his pain. He told her the ridiculous little things of the 
past year, the quarrel with the carter before the servants, 
the row about the thick tumblers. 

" Oh, don't think me a hyper-super," he said, " only these 
Uttle things, they go on all the time. . . . The jewellery 
at our little dinner-party, you remember." Theresa 
nodded. " Well, all that sort of thing, it seems so small, 
but it goes on and on : little bits of shame, little bits of 
irritation, little bits of despair falling upon our marriage 
like the drops of water that wear away a stone." 

Then Theresa made an effort ; she was not prim, and 
there was nothing that she could not say or hear, but she 
felt a little shy of this point, for it concerned the intinute 
life of the man she loved and of another woman. 

" Aren't you forgetting," she said, " the biggest thing 
of all in marriage when you're young? The ^ > 
attraction between a young man and a young woman ; 
well, you know what I mean." 






REVERSION 417 

He drew away a little ; he wished Theresa had not said 
that. She seemed removed from all that sort of thing, in 
her snows. He might talk to her about Sue's making up to a 
kept woman, but that did not imply that she might talk 
to him of those things. 

"That I "he said. "Oh! You don't understand, Theresa. 
We're beasts, we men, in a way, and even if everything 
else has gone, even if one despises the woman, well, that 
may be all right. But not me. I don't say ... one 
tries. It's a sort of bridge ; just for a moment one thinks 
one loves each other as one did. But it makes me feel 
hateful and . . . no, I can't talk to you about these 
things. But that's no good. Don't imagine that two 
bodies can make a link where two spirits have snapped 
their chain." 

The afternoon waned on; she felt powerless. They 
changed the conversation and talked commonplaces. Then 
they returned again to the relations between Roger and 
Sue, and they said exactly the same things over again. 
And still the afternoon waned on, and the shadow of the 
western wall lengthened upon the lawn. At last Roger 
got up. 

" I must go," he said, " I didn't look up my train. I 
must go." 
" Oh, don't go quite yet," said Theresa. 
He looked long and unhappily into the dark eyes, at the 
mouth where now was no mockery. Dimly he knew how 
very much he needed this woman. He had not yet come 
to wanting her. He knew only that here he was happy and 
at rest, and that she filled him with a sense of eternal 
happiness. He was not thmking of Sue, he had no idea of 
guilt. Those rigid principles of his did not reproach him, 
for he was not yet committing adultery in his soul. 

"Good-bye," he said again. Theresa looked at him 
without speaking. He bent down : " I don't want to go," 
he muttered, and put both hands upon her shoulders. 
" I don't want to go," he said again, with the slim shoulders 

a; 



4i8 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



1' 



shaking a little under his hands. " but I must." And then 
he was upon his knees by her side, for the first time hold- 
ing her ctose in his arms, and no longer kissing her upon 
the cheek as he had once kissed his good comrade, but 
kissing her upon the lips and holding her hard-pressed, 
kissing her filled with despair, as if he thought upon her 
mcjth to find a recipe for healing rather than a foimtain 
of delight. She did not resist, she did not move. She 
was too weak to feel disloyal. She lay in his arms 
unresponding, unrebelling, as if fate had thrown her dice 
for her. 

u 

Roger and Sue felt far apart, and so they grew further 
apart. They hardly noticed: a little further, a little 
nearer, what was that? Roger, it seemed, played golf 
every day either with Mr. Cawder or unknown friends. 
Sue foimd the making of friends less easy. Beyond 
Mrs. Cawder, whom she still puzzled, nobody took her up 
except Miss Grange. She was attracted by Miss Grange 
because she was so pretty, and seemed so innocent even 
when she told dreadful stories. She hinted to Mrs. Cawder 
that Miss Grange told dreadful stories, and the old lady 
in her charity said : 

" Probably she doesn't understand them herself ; she's 
too young, she only repeats what she's been told, poor 
little thing." 

Mrs. Cawder meant to be charitable, and all she did was 
to encourage Sue further into compromising herself with 
the only woman who could compromise her. By degrees 
Miss Grange became confidential: she almost told Sue 
the truth, and Sue accepted it because she was still her 
St. Panwich self : one was a bad lot and that was a pity, 
but this was a hard world. Sue was not as some women 
in her new class who, in private, do not profess to have 
any morals and maintain them only for public exhibition ; 
«he had the most rigid morals in private, and so in public 



lUEVERSION 



4»9 



she could afford to relax. Also th»s was a hard world ; 
she knew that. She had had to live on bread and dripping 
sometimes. They didn't know, the others. But still 
Miss Grange did not help her much socially, for her 
language was together coarse and smart. One morning, 
when she had ordered gin and bitters and the waiter 
brought her gin and orange instead of gin and peach, 
she loudly called him " You blighter ! " and asked Sue : 
" Wasn't it bloodsome ? wasn't it pink ? " It seemed to 
Sue much worse than the real words she was used to in 
St. Panwich High Street. Miss Grange's oaths were 
together gross and sophisticated. 

So she drifted again closer to Lizzie, who unveiled to her 
a Ufe so extraordinarily hke her own : dreams of the stoker, 
desires for sixpences to buy peppermints and seats at the 
picture-palace. And a greater depth too, for Lizzie had 
been in trouble four years before, and she wept abundantly 
every year on the fifth of April, which was the date of 
the baby's birth and death. It was very wrong. Sue 
thought, but still Ufe was hard and people did these things. 
Sue had been educated, and she had survived. But still 
her education bade her not to throw herself too easily 
into the arms of the class below or of the class upon the 
edge. It would not do, she thought, and she was still 
loyal enough to Roger to think it was not fair to him. 
That was the end of love : she was domg what he wanted 
no longer because it pleased him, but because it was 
only fair. 

One night, when Roger had disappeared to play bridge 
somewhere, she could no longer sit in the lounge reading 
the Illustrated London News or obscure jokes in 
Punch until it was time to go to bed. The end of 
August had come and the equinoctial gales were preparing. 
She could hear a high wind flinging what sounded like 
solid water against the glass roof of the winter garden. 
It tempted her. It was violent outside, not like this 
lounge, full "* discreet conversation and the smoke of good 



410 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

tobacco. She ran up to her room, not knowing what she 
wanted, not knowing that it was just a sensation of free- 
dom she wanted. She did not even change her shoes, 
but just threw over her evening frock her tweed travelling 

coat. 

Head down to the driving wind and rain that in an 
instant soaked her hair, flung Uttle streams down her 
neck into her breast, she wandered through the town. 
It was ill-lit. She went for a long time along the front, 
for a very long time, to the outskirts of Margate, thinking 
of nothing, feeling only a relief in fighting the heavy 
north wind. One could touch that wind. That wind 
was not like the impalpable difficulties amid which she 
floundered. Sometimes she stopped to thrust back the 
soaked wisps of hair that stuck to her face. She was 
tired. She stood in a Uttle street staring at a mysterious 
inscription outside a church : 

ADDOLDY 

Y WESLEYAID CYMREIG 

TREFN Y MODDION 

She did not even wonder what it was. Vaguely she thought 
it must be something to do wth smart society, so no 
wonder she did not understand it. She went back to 
Broadstairs very fast, for the wind blew in her back now, 
carrying her on. It was a violent night, and yet the sea 
had no waves. It rose and fell in the vast curves of a 
heavy ground swell. It was like the breathing of some 
large beast turning uneasily in stertorous sleep. She 
felt alone, and she stopped awhile to listen to the sea that 
breathed mouth to mouth with the sweeping wind. 

§3 
They returned to town, Roger full of determinations. 
His marriage was not a marriage: still, there were lots 
of unions like that. He must make the best of his life, 
make it up of other things. He went back to the Settle- 
tient, as that was the obvious thing to do, and lor a few 



; i- 
||t:» 



REVERSION 



4tl 



days his work interested him; to see PUtt, and Ford, 
and Churton again after two months was agreeable; 
they were renewed. He grew quite enthusiastic over the 
re-decoration of the lecture-room and had long interviews 
with Fomcett. But still, he was conscious of a peculiar 
atmosphere around him; he was still notable. He 
enjoyed an incomprehensible popularity among the patrons 
of the Settlement. Then he forgot ; he was getting used 
to it. But one afternoon he left the Settlement just in 
time to meet the sm U boys as they came out of Clare 
Street schools. For a moment he stood watching a little 
group that eyed him smihng. They were nice kids, he 
thought, and it might be worth while making life brighter 
for them. He gave them a paternal nod and walked on. 
He did not want to pass Paradise Row, so he turned 
up the High Street. It was rather crowded and yet, 
after a moment, when he had crossed he street, he found 
that he was followed. Five little boys, a silent and 
smiling group walked about six yards behind him. He 
stared at them, and they returned the stare with apparently 
vivid interest. Uncertain what to do, he walked on, and 
stiU they followed him into the High Street. They were 
singing something, but he could not hear it on account 
of the trams. A minute or two later he turned : really 
this was too irritating. " Go away ! " he cried. The five 
little boys smiled at him with deep reHsh. 

He could not brawl with five little boys in the St. Pan- 
wich High Street, could he ? So he walked on still faster, 
trying as he went to catch the burden of their song. On 
reaching Northboume Road he turned suddenly to the 
rght, hoping to discourage them. But it was no use; 
still they followed him as there were no trams here; 
at last as he passed the Town Hall with his procession 
behind him, he heard their song : 

That's the man. 
That is 'im. 
Everybody says 
We want more Uk« 'IM, 



422 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



i^ 



For a moment as he walked on he was puzzled. These 
beastly little boys, they were just annoying him. He 
thought he had better go roimd by the gasworks and then 
get into Crapp's Lane, He could get into a tram, they 
wouldn't follow him on a trari. And still the song went 
on with no further variation : 

That's the man. 
That is Im. 
Everybody says 
We want more like 'IM. 

Suddenly he remembered : of course, the Labour mem- 
ber's phrase I The man Uke whom we want more ! He 
walked so fast that he nearly ran ; his cheeks were burning. 
He rushed along Crapp's Lane, dodged in and out between 
barrows, wildly apologiang to an old woman whom he 
caused to drop her American cloth bag. And as at last, 
ashamed and despairing, the five little boys running hard 
upon his heels, he managed to get on to the Euston tram, 
the two last hues followed him : 

. . . Everybody says 
We ¥rant more like 'IM. 

It was purely instinctive. At Euston he took a taxi, 
and went straight to St. Mary's Mansions with only two 
thoughts in his mind: St. Panwich was impossible, and 
would Theresa be at home. She was not. Elizabeth was 
sympathetic. She liked the one whom she had once 
looked upon as Miss Theresa's yoimg man, though she 
much resented his not having married her. She made 
him tea as he decided to wait for Theresa. She even 
stood and taUted to him, tortured him with questions. 
Notably she wanted to be informed whether the new 
Maida Vale station of the Bakerloo would get her to 
Bourne & Hollingsworth's quicker than the No. 8 'bus. 
He said " Yes " and " No " where required, and sat there 
moodily smoking cigarette after cigarette. Would Theresa 
never come ? He wanted her, he wanted her very badly ; 



REVERSION 



423 



he was like a wounded num who thinks only of the time 
when the nurse will come and change his dressing. 

When at last Theresa came she seemed to know at once. 
It was as if they were linked by a secret intimacy. He 
told her in a few words and then looked at her rather 
angrily, for Theresa threw herself back in the arm-chair 
and uncontrollably laughed. " Oh," she ga^)ed, " this is 
the man, this is 'IM . . ." She pointed at him. " Oh, 
Roger, Roger, it's too funny ! " 

"You always seem to see something fuimy in every- 
thing," said Huncote, savagely. 

" Well, there is," said Theresa. " Everybody says . . . 
Oh, dear I oh, dear ! and you doa't know how funny you 
look, Roger." 

He jumped up : " Oh, well, if you fed like that about it 
I may as well go." 

But she, too, leapt to her feet and took his arm. 

" Dear," she said, " I'm so sorry, I didn't want to hurt 
your feelings : but do let your sense of humour have a 
chance." He did not reply. " But never mind the 
funny part," she said. " I know it's h-ud on you." Half 
unconsciously she pressed the arm Si.e held against her 
breast. He felt consoled by her nearness. 

"I can't go on with the Settlement," he said, more 
calmly. 

Theresa hesitated : " Well, perhaps you can't, not you, 
you know. Somebody with a thicker skin perhaps." 
She glanced at him from under her lashes and thought 
how she loved him for his absurd deUcacy, for the fasti- 
dious quixotism which had led him into such misery, but 
might yet lead him to delights more subtle than could be 
given any other man. "But what else can you do? 
You must do something." 

" Yes," said Roger, " I s'pose I must. I'd better do 
some real work, I think." 

Theresa lodced interested: few things are SQ thrilling 
as the life work of the man one loves. 



424 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



" I'm a bit old for the CivU Service," he said, " and, 
besides, it isn't very exciting, is it ? Or I might read for 
the Bar." 

Theresa shook her head : " Oh, no, not the law. If you 
want to do any good there you've got to be like a two- 
edged sword, one edge to shear the plaintiff with and the 
other to shear the defendant." 

He smiled, and that made her heart leap, for it was she 
had made him smile. 

" I s'pose I'll have to take to literature," he said, " that's 
what everybody does when he's no good for anything 
else." He smiled bitteriy. "After all, I'm qualified to 
write a novel ; I can tdl the story of my three years at 
Oxford." 

She did not respond: literature . . . yes, that was 
fascinating, but what if he failed ? It would be so horrible 
to see him fail. . . . The man she loved, he could not 
be allowed to fail. 

" Must you do anything ? " she said. " You're young, 
you've money of your own, you'll have more, can't you 
live agreeably? just like that, doing what you like and 
not doing anything in particular ? until one day you get 
an impulse ? It might be anything : it might be Hterature, 
as you say, or politics, or travel. You're very young, you 
see." 

It hurt her just then to feel three years older and so 
old, perhaps too old. He shook his h^ : 

" Oh, no," he said. . . . " If I'd anybody to help me, 
somebody like you. . . . But, oh, no, my life's wrong." 

She came closer, and half-consciously he tried to put his 
arm about her shoulders. She drew back. 

" No, Roger," she whispered, " please don't. I haven't 
said anything about it, but I haven't forgotten. It was 
wrong, what we did at Grove Ferry." He did not move 
his arm. "Please let me go, Roger; you shouldn't have 
kissed me. I shouldn't have let you, rather— it was my 
fault." 



REVERSION 



425 



His arm dropped. "Oh, all right," he said. The flat 
weakness in his voice hurt her abwiiinably. " I'm no 
good," he went on. "What's the use of talking about 
work to me ? I was spoilt by having money just as otheis 
are qwilt by not having any. Leave me alone. Others 
have suffernl, and others have known how to live; so 
can I." 

He looked away, and she felt in torture that he might 
be looking away because his eyes were full of tears and he, 
man-like, would not let her see. 

It was she then, not knowing whether in love or in pity, 
seized him by the shoulders and drew his head down, and 
she who kissed him again and again, who drew him dose, 
who hid his face oa her breast. She was not thinSing 
now, but only feeling that this was her man, that he was 
unhappy, and t^at she must not let it be. 

§4 
Opulent September had gone, and October too, in her 
robe of red and g61d leaf, like a woman no longer yotmg 
who is still beautiful, yet not for long and knows it, and 
smiles a little sadly in her rich garment. Then passed 
November, that is like a long, weeping maiden in a fingent 
robe of modest mist. And December was waning, active 
and fierce, brightly cold, somehow gay as if the year were 
dancing its dance of death. It would be Christmas soon. 
Sue was ahnost used to being unhappy. In the last three 
months life had become again so desperately like what it 
was before they went away. People had come to them 
and had returned their hospitality. She had met Theresa 
once or twice, bat evidently Theresa did not like coming 
to Pembroke Square; she was innocent, but she felt 
guilty. To console R(^er in his unhappiness was a little 
like taking him away from the wife whose business it was 
to console him. Theresa knew that Sue could not console 
him, but still it fdt disloyal. Nor did Sue make things 
easy for her. Since she discovered that her husband bad 



426 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



gone to Grove Ferry on the sly she had hated the inter- 
loper ; she had suspected other meetings, many meetings, 
and much more than there was in them. It was a demon- 
stration of her new state that there were no scenes of 
jealousy ; Sue was too numb to be angry now. Generally 
she felt : " Let her have him if she wants him, I dcm't." 
There were moments of rebellion when she told herself : 
" He's mine." But that was just pride, and passed away 
when Roger sat in front of her in the evening, reading 
the English Review or the bound volume of " Rhjrthm," 
incomprehensible things. They had had only one scene, 
in October, whe*^. Sue hinted that Roger might take her 
away for a fortnight to Biarritz, just like the other time, 
to Celebrate the first anniversary of their wedding. He 
was moved for a second, then he said : 

" Oh, I see. You want to make an annual pilgrimage 
of it ? " 

" Yes, we might go every year. It'd be nice, wouldn't 
it ? " 

" Let's go a little later, October's s6 nice here ; 3rou'll 
be glad to get down South in January or February." 

Sue hesitated. " Oh. it wouldn't be the same thbg. We 
ought to £^ the very same day." 

He was irritated. " Oh, don't be so sentimental. What's 
the same day got to do with it ? " 

" I see the day doesn't mean much to you," said Sue, 
stonily. 

"Doesn't ... Oh, but what is a date? Just 
because we happened to be married in October you want 
to consecrate October. One might think you'd got mar- 
ried for the sake of a honeymoon and a white silk dress, 
and flowers, and all that sort of rot." 

" I don't think it rot," said Sue, " but anyboyv that's 
not a very nice word, Roger." 

When she said that he understood why the villain at 
Dniry Lane occasionally grits his teeth. So this was 
^ttcation !. 



REVERSION 



427 



"Don't be sUly," he said. "And above all don't be 
sentimental ; I'm not that sort of man." 

She looked at him with brilliant eyes. 

" No, you aren't that sort of man, I know. Wish I'd 
known it. Wish I'd known more about men. That's 
what comes of keeping straight. " 

He looked at her, more unhappy than angiy. So this 
was what he was doing for her, making her cynical ! It 
softened him too, bnt as if she felt the softness she grew 
angrier. 

" I didn't expect much of men. Ma ... my 
mother told me. Still one wants a real man. He may 
lift his elbow a bit and all that, but anyhow's he's a man, 
the other sort. Not a dummy in a glass case all ovei 
labels." 

" Are you talking about me ? " said Roger. 

" I'm talking about nobody." She turned away ; she 
looked so dark and sulky, with a forward pout of the lips. 

He said : " It's quite clear you don't care for me any 
more." 

" Well, do you ? " asked Sue, evading his question. 

" Of course, I do." 

" Looks Uke it." 

" Sue," he said, " you're making me unhappy." 

She nearly melted, she nearly jumped up to throw her 
arms round his neck, but she had her proper pride, so she 
did not move. That bond which should have been so 
beautiful was bi..ken. He was unhappy, and she sat 
cold as Anaxarete. 

On a December afternoon, as she climbed the stairs to 
Mrs. Groby's tenement, she remembered that quarrel. 
She had not said anjrthing about it at the time, being too 
proud. Mrs. Groby did not at first show curiosity. She 
had complaints to make about Mr. Groby : 

" Spends too much time at the club. Tell yer wot, it 
didn't do us much good, 'avin' that money for Muriel. 
Yer father stopped some of it every week. It ail goes 



428 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



t' the same place, an' 'e's gettin' 'ard to manage when 
'e's twopence. Corsts money, too," she added reflectively. 
" The other day I arsked 'im ter put a bit by for a rainy 
day. ' Waste not, want not,' I said. And 'e said 'e'd put 
it across me, 'e did." 

Sue showed dutiful interest in her father's behaviour, in 
Muriel, who. it appeared, had designs on the Junior Cam- 
bridge Local, with Matric in the dizzy distance. Perce, 
it seemed, was getting on ; the most junior derk having 
gone, he had been promoted, and now showed a red half- 
circle under his chin as his collars had risen with his salary. 
But Sue was unresponsive, and at last Mrs. Groby noticed it. 

" Wot's the matter with you, sittin' there like . . ." 
Mrs. Groby's Cockney failed her and the ancient Sussex 
strain came out ..." like a painted lady ? " 

" I don't know." 

" 'Ad a rumpus with yer ole man ? * Sue did not reply. 
" I can see yer 'ave. Well, well, one 'as one's ups an' 
downs. Shure it ain't your fault ? " 

" You always think it's my fault, mother." 

" Didn't say it was." 

" Yes, you did ; you never stick up for me as you do for 
Perce." 

" Perce's only a kid," said Mrs. Groby, defensively. 

She felt guilty, and would not have liked to be told that 
a mother wUl defend her son better than her daughter. 
She wanted to know what had happened, but she found it 
difficult to get it out of Sue. Her daughter could only 
hint vaguely at a continual coldness, at an estrangement. 

" We don't see each other much," she said. 

Mrs. Groby thought for a while. 

" Well, tWs is a nice 'ow-d'yer-do. Married people 
didn't be'ave like that in my time, an' yer can't even say 
wot's wrong." 

" Everything," said Sue, 

" That's the same as nothing," said Mrs. Groby. " Yer 
discontented, yer ^?oilt, that's wot yer are. Yer ain't 



REVERSION 



419 



got 'nuff to do. If yer 'ad a Httle 'un in th' nursery an' 
another on tt' way, yer wouldn't talk. Tell yer wot, I 
don't know 'ow yer manages it in the upper ten. Them 
fine ladies, they don't seem t'ave children like us." 

" P'raps they don't want to," said Sue. 

Mrs. Groby meditated this remark. She had heard 
about that sort of thing, but did not think she ought to 
discuss the topic with Sue. Sue was married, but she was 
still her little girl, so she cruelly remarked : 

" Fraps. It's a queer worid, but one lives an' learns." 
Again she became personal : " But all that's got nothin' 
f do with it. Yer ort t'ave one an' I'll tell yer for why. 
It would give j^er somethin' t' do instead o' wanderin' 
about, lookin' like a ghost. Yer married, so wot yer want 
is a couple o' kiddies t' take yer mind orf it." 

Sue thought over this : yes, one did want something to 
take one's mind off marriage. But she said nothing and 
Mrs. Groby went on : " Besides, it's always been like that. 
Yer got to 'ave children. It's in the Bible. I'll find it 
for yer." 

Mrs. Groby brought down the Bible which had been given 
her when she was a Uttle girl by Great-aunt EUzabeth. 
She made a lengthy search. She had a vague idea that 
it might be in Leviticus. But it was not. Nor was it 
in the Song of Solomcm. At last she left the Bible open, 
and went to the Marriage Service in the Prayer-book. She 
was not sure, but she felt there ought to be something 
about children in that. While her mother struggled with 
the difficult language, Sue idly turned over the leaves of 
the Bible. She hardly knew what she read ; she thought 
merely that she was unhappy. She turned over the fly- 
leaf where her mother had written a few days after her 
wedding a curious Uttle statemmt : 

Edith is my name, 

Groby is my surname, 

St. nmvrich is my dwelling-plaoe 

Aikl Christ is my s«lvati<». 



43ft THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

When I am dead and in my grave 

And all my bCMies are rotten, 
If you yrill glance inside this book 

Then I am not forgotten. 

Sue read it over twice. For the first time in her life 
that sort of idea meant something to her. Yes, she too 
would be dead one day. It was not only other people 
died ; it was even people hke her, people with warm blood 
rtmning through them. She did not shrink ; she was 
growing old. What did it matter ? she thought. What 
would it matter in a hundred years? This idiotic idea 
comforted her a little. 

Mrs. Groby had at last foimd what she wanted in the 
Marriage Service and triimiphantly read it. Sue did not 
reply. She did not want a child. She knew that and 
thought it fortunate there should not be one. She did not 
know why, but she vaguely felt that it would tie her up 
for good, and it would be terrible to think that a life such 
as hers could be anything but temporary. She could not 
bear that life any more. Even from afar it was impossible. 
She could not bear to go back at once to the stifling place. 

So for a long time she wandered in St. Panwich, chilled 
by the coming darkness. She did not mind, she did not 
cling to the High Street, where the well-Ut windows of 
Bubwith and of Davis combined with the trams to produce 
a sort of gaiety. Unconsciously she began a sentimental 
journey. She turned through Paradise Square into Clare 
Street, passing the schools where she had been educated. 
She remembered how Ada Nuttall had got into trouble 
for not knowing what counties surrounded London. She 
aniled as she repeated : " Surrey, Kent, Sussex, Middle- 

She passed a sweet-shop, where every now and then 
she had bought halfpennyworths of toffee when she had 
that rare halfpenny. She thought of those children, now 
men and women, lost in London as was she. She remem- 
bered a few names ; Alberta, and " Pudding," and Jackie 



REVERSION 



43t 



Brown. They had not been unhappy. On Saturday 
afternoons they had gone for picnics with some bread, 
perhaps a little jam, and a bottle of water to Highgate 
Fields. As she walked she remembered earlier picnics 
still, when she and the others were too small to walk so 
far, and they had settled for the afternoon in the waste 
land between the gasworks and the power station. They 
had not been unhappy there; the boys played cricket 
with a wicket made of coats, and Jackie Brown cut his 
knee upon a sardine tin ; they bound it up with hand- 
kerchiefs, and he walked up and down the High Street, 
saying he was a " cajerlty in the Bore War." Now she was 
alone. Ah that was dead, and notliing else had come. 

She avoided the Settlement and wandered up Crapp's 
Lane. Without thinking she turned to the left into the 
square between Crapp's Lane and Northboume Road. 
It was an open square and she went in. There was nobody 
there. It was grey and dark and lifeless. The holly.bu^ 
and the evergreens dione black with soot. But the square 
thrilled her, for round the base of the biggest tree was a 
bench. She had sat there once or twice with Bert. Ah I 
There it was, just the same. The bench was furrowed 
with age and rain, and stank with rottenness. It did 
not matter. She remained standing before it, kid-gloved 
hands clasped over the gold top of her umbrella. She 
remembered. They had scratched their initiab upon the 
bench with a pin. She wondered whether they were still 
there. It was not yet so dark that one could not see, 
arid for some time she searched. There were pLenty of 
initials on that bench, and arrows, and hearts. But it had 
rained a great deal dnce then, and S. G. and B. C. were not 
scratched very deep. She remembered that Bert had not 
his knife that day, so they had used a pin. Pins did not 
scratch very deep; perhaps other people had cut their 
initials over theirs, btotted them out. Anyhow the initials 
were gone like everything else. She sat for a long time 
on the mouldy bench, conscious of the growing coldness 



4Sa 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



of the woild and of evening time. She was twenty, she 
was dd. Everything that had been was washed out or 
rubbed away. Even Bert . . . well, she only had 
herself to Uame. Slowly she melted to the memory of him, 
and she remembered many little things : Saturday after- 
noons at Hampton Court when he sculled and looked so 
nice with his hair ruffled, though he did not believe it 
and bef^ed her not to spoil his parting. And the day 
when he told her that he loved her, behind the gasometer. 
And a garnet and opal ring, which she shyly left at home 
when she married. 

It all seemed so wonderful and tender, so real in the 
familiar streets, the very streets in which she and Bert used 
to do their courting. She did not know what made her 
do it, but she found herself walking along Northboume 
Road back to Crapp's Lane, past the gasworks and then 
quicldy along John Street towards the mews, as if she were 
again keeping a tryst. It was darker now, nearly night. 
It was dose on six o'dock; Bert would come out in a 
minute or two. She stocfl in the silent mews. It hurt 
her to find them silent : H. that short year motor-cars had 
come and the cab horses had gone, but still she stood. Her 
mind was filled with a romantic idea : there she was at the 
old place, almost waiting for him. Supposing he too were 
to come into the mews for old sake's sake ? Th^ would 
meet. It would be as if Providence . . ''. then she 
blamed hersdf , told herself not to be silly, and yet remained 
waiting. For you never knew. The men came out, first 
one by one, then in groups, and a whole crowd. Posted at 
the comer of the mews, she watched and she did not know 
why she watched. Then her heart "grew laige and her 
limbs a little numb. Here he was with another man. 
They did not see her, but walked away towards Crapp's 
Lane. Without knowing why, she followed. She Irrtew 
he was going. home. She knew his mate would leave 
him at the comer. She tbouc^t hersdi absurd, and 
accepted the absurdity. She thought: "Supposiog 



REVERSION 



433 



tie turned round, what should I say ? " So much did this 
shake her that she suddenly stopped, let him out of sight. 

At once she felt alone, and yet she could not go home. 
She thought she would go back to her mother's for supper 
after telegraphing to Roger. Yes, she could not so sud- 
denly leave the real old life for the new one. 

There were a good many people at the post-office in the 
High Street and she had to wait for some time at the tele- 
graph counter. This irritated her ; to send that telegram 
would make her vaguely feel quit for a while of the new 
Itfe. At last it was done. As she stuck on the stamps 
she grew conscious of a tamiliar voice : 

" Pfenny stamp, miss . . ." 

Nothing had been said ; they were out in the street and 
for a long time they walked side by side, he a Uttle in front 
and she foUowing. It was as it had been. As if by 
agreement they turned off at Crapp's Lane : they did not 
want to pass the Settlement. At last they spoke. 
- Pretty cold." said Bert. 

• Yes," said Sue. humbly. 

• I should say we'll have some snow." 

•Seen mother lately ? " said Sue. changing the subject. 

He did not reply, and they said nothing until they passed 
John Street. She was thrilled because he had not turned 
off where he should to go home. She did not know whether 
she wanted him to turn off or not. She did not know 
what she wanted. She just foUowed him and he let her 
without knowing that he wanted to. It was simply that 
they had both of them been plucked by chance out of the 
new life, planted into the old, and that aheady.quite simiiy 
the roots were setting. So their Uttle talk was irrelevant' 
She said: 

" One's not always happy." 

He stared at her, and for a moment the charm was 
broken as he said : 

" Don't see what you've got to complain about, you're 
maiTied. and all that." ' J « 

28 



494 



THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 



" Oh. married I " said Sue. bitterly. " It depends wte 
you're married to." 

" Well, you know, I never thought much of marriage. 
It's only a social contract. It's a dodge invented by the 
priests to get hold of all the silly fools. That's all it is. 
So. of course, the capitalist state got hold of it— capitalists 
always were in with the inriests. Still, I don't say . . . 
it's handy in a way." 

She did not pmtest. Bert had ahvays shocked her by 
not respecting marriage, by kx)king upon it as merely a 
social convenience. It was nice, somehow, to hear him talk 
as he used to. even though it did sound silly. For one 
moment she thought of marriage, and wmidened whether 
she were doing wrong to be with him hke that. She sighed, 
for she could not &id the answer. She blamed hersdi. 
and yet her moraUty was still unchanged, still instinctive, 
still tderant of the irr^iular. for life was very hard, and 
there you were. 

" I see you don't agree with me." said Bert. " Wooden- 
headed as ever." She did not rej^y. " Yon don't want to 
talk to me, do you ? " 

Still no refdy. He stopped. 

" Lode here, I don't know what we're doing. May as 
wdl say good-night." 

Sie put out her hand as if to touch him, and remem- 
bered just in time that these public touchings bdonged 
to a class she had left. 

"Don't talk like that, Bert," she said. "Yon know 
quite well." 

"Oh, do I ? " said Bert. " That's just what I don't 
know. There you are, living in your fine house, with ser- 
vants and motor-cars. You're not what you used to be. I 
don't mind." He corrected himself : " I mean, I shouldn't 
mind so much if it made y^u happy. But I don't think." 

They walked silently by each other's side for a long time. 
St. Panwich was left behind and they were neaiing Hi g h, 
bury. He was racked. He felt her unhs^jMnos. He 



REVERSION 



435 



wanted to say lomething to comfort her, yet knew that if 
he spoke he wouli' ' harsh. And she wanted so much 
to answer that sb - mppy. She couW not, and with 
every minute grew luore unhappy. They went for a very 
fong time along the dark streets, looking away from each 
other. There were tears in her eyes now, though fonning 
gradually. First there was a tingling, then a sense of 
matted eyelashes, of a fihn over her eyeballs, and then 
suddenly she couW not see at aU. Her eyes were fiUed with 
Water and something in her throat that she could not 
control rose and fell. She stopped just as they were passing 
over Hertford Bridge, clutched the parapet, her other 
hand upon her breast. 

" WeU," said B«rt, " what's up now ? What have you 
got to complain about after all ? with your servants and 
your fine clothes ? " He grew bitter as the envy in him 
mixed with his desire. In this minute he hated her because 
he toved her, and somehow she had removed herself from 
him : " With your fine clothes." he snarled. " No wonder 
yott don't want to talk to the likes of me now you've 
become a bloody lady." 

Sue gave a little gasp, and her hand, groping through 
the darkness that ky over her eyes, found his arm. con- 
vulsively gripped it. 

Bert," she said, gently, " don't say that, it isn't true. 
I'm not a lady, you know ihat ; really I'm not. Oh. Bert. 
Bert, I ain't." 

And as if the sudden relapse into her original tongue 
had foosed in her something that had been suffering, beat- 
ing its wings against golden bars, she found her%lf in 
Bert's arms, not crying bitterly now, but like a child, not 
even wondering if her hair was growmg untidy, or her nose 
red. She just clung to him shaking all over, as if the whole 
of her were melting into tears. 

" Cheer up, you silly kid." said Bert, moved and angry 
because his voice was husky. " Making such a show of 
yourself, I'm surprised at you. Chuck it, I say." 



436 THE STRANGERS' WEDDING 

He could not bear to see her cry but would not tell her 
so. And then, as if love told him exactly what to do. he 
drew her closer into his arms, and gave her upon the lips 
a good heavy kiss which was that of a brother more than 
of a lover. 

§5 

Roger stood in the hall. He had not come home t* 
dinner. It was ten o'clock. He had read the telegram. 
Now he read over and over again a note from Sue which 
had just come by a boy messenger : 

" I'm going away to Bert. I'm not coming backr Never.* 

So it was over. Queer. He was neither shocked nor 
unhappy. He felt dull. The end. Yes. it was all over. 
He should have expected it. What should he do ? One 
thought only formed in his brain : Theresa. He would go 
to Theresa. His mind took a more practical turn. How 
hateful it all was. He would have to divorce Sr". Well, 
it was only fair. He must set her free. He l i spoilt 
enough of her life. He felt moved as he half-understood 
how much she must have suffered before doing this. Break- 
ing all her own rules of faithfulness. He pitied her so much 
that he ahnost loved her again. But that was over. 
And there formed in him a sense of lightness. Poor Sue, 
she was free. And he ? Well, he was going to Theresa. 

As he put on his coat he saw that something else lay upon 
the hall table. He picked it up. It was a picture post- 
card from Perce : the bachelor in diggings, holding up to 
his landlady a dead rat which he has just fished out of the 
soup tureen. Underneath, the words : " I said vegetable 
soup, not Irish stew."